Ever since consulting firm Capgemini and the MIT Center for Digital Business coined the term “digital transformation” in 2011, it has served as a hot-button topic for enterprises that want to leverage technology to radically improve business performance and reach. Sitting at the core of any digital transformation initiative is network transformation.
Clearly, for a business to be successful, the network technology must support the goals and objectives of the business. In fact, all digital transformation-enabling technologies, including cloud computing, edge computing, and the Internet of Things (IoT), are network-centric, making network transformation essential to digital transformation.
What is Network Transformation?
In simple terms, network transformation is the process of updating and improving a company’s network infrastructure to better align it with the company’s business goals. The goal of network transformation is to create a more agile, efficient, and effective network that can better support the business’s digital transformation initiatives.
Network transformation is a fundamental redesign of the entire organization’s network infrastructure, including wide area network (WAN), local area network (LAN), wireless LAN (WLAN), and internet connectivity. Network transformation can also include other infrastructure components such as voice, data center, and security.
An important point to make is that network transformation is not a lift-and-shift migration of an old network to a new one — for example, from on-premises servers to infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Rather, network transformation is a holistic and comprehensive approach that should be tailored to the specific needs of each organization.
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Benefits of Network Transformation
There are many benefits of network transformation, but some of the most important ones include the following.
Improved operational efficiency
Improved operational efficiency is one of the benefits of network transformation. A more efficient network can lead to improved business performance. For example, cloud computing and edge computing can help to optimize network resources and reduce network latency. As a result, businesses that adopt these technologies can see improved operational efficiency and reduced costs.
In addition, network transformation can also enable companies to scale their operations more effectively. By adopting a more flexible and modular network infrastructure, businesses can better adapt to changing demands and conditions. As a result, they can improve their competitiveness and position themselves for long-term success.
The benefits of network transformation are many and varied, but one of the most significant is the potential for reduced costs. By decoupling the control and data planes, as is done in software-defined networking (SDN), network administrators can enjoy increased efficiency and modularity while still maintaining a high level of security.
Furthermore, virtualizing resources and sharing them across multiple network users makes it possible to reduce infrastructure costs further. In today’s economy, reducing network costs without compromising quality or service is an invaluable asset, making network transformation an essential consideration for any forward-thinking organization.
Increased agility and responsiveness
A software-defined virtualized network can be quickly provisioned and reconfigured to meet changing business needs. This increased agility can help you keep up with the competition and better serve your customers. In addition, you can free up staff to focus on more strategic initiatives by automating network management tasks. Network transformation can help improve your responsiveness to market changes and better serve your customers.
Network transformation can also lead to improved performance. For example, a virtualized network can be designed for specific workloads and applications, resulting in increased efficiency and reduced latency. In addition, by adopting a more flexible network infrastructure, businesses can improve their ability to scale their operations and meet changing demands.
Also, edge computing can help to improve network performance by bringing computing and storage resources closer to users. As a result, businesses can see enhanced application response times and reduced latency.
You can also achieve improved performance by offloading CPU-intensive tasks to dedicated hardware.
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Improved customer experiences
A transformed network can help deliver better customer experiences by providing the reliable connectivity and performance that customers expect. For example, by deploying a next-generation firewall, you can improve your ability to protect customer data while still providing the high-speed connectivity that customers demand. In addition, by adopting a more modular and flexible network infrastructure, businesses can better adapt to changing customer needs and demands. As a result, they can improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
A transformed network can also help you understand your customers better. For example, you can gain insights into customer behavior and preferences by deploying network analytics. This information can help you tailor your offerings and improve customer relationships.
Use Cases of Network Transformation
Connectivity within the cloud provider
As businesses move more of their workloads to the cloud, the need for reliable and high-speed connectivity between cloud resources becomes increasingly important. Network transformation can help you meet this need by providing the flexibility and scalability required to connect cloud resources.
For example, you can connect your on-premises resources to multiple cloud providers by deploying a software-defined WAN. This will allow you to quickly provision and reconfigure your network to meet changing business needs.
Connectivity to data centers
Data center connectivity is another important use case for network transformation. The need for dependable, high-speed connectivity between on-premises data centers and cloud facilities grows as businesses shift more of their operations to the cloud. A next-generation network can provide the low-latency, high-bandwidth connections needed to keep cloud-based applications running smoothly.
Connectivity to the edge and IoT applications
Network transformation can also help businesses take advantage of new opportunities made possible by IoT. By connecting devices and sensors to the network, companies can collect and analyze data to improve efficiency, optimize operations, and create new services and applications. IoT use cases are diverse and range from connected industrial equipment to smart buildings and cities.
Connectivity to branches
This use case covers organizations implementing SD-WAN solutions to connect users with applications, typically using Internet circuits. There are two primary transformative trends influencing branch connectivity.
- The transition from private connectivity, such as site-to-site VPNs or MPLS, to user-to-application connectivity. In this model, there is no private network within a branch, and all users access applications similarly.
- The second trend is the use of SD-WAN, which orchestrates the creation of encrypted network tunnels to cloud services such as AWS and Azure.
The combination of these two trends results in network transformation at the branch.
Connectivity to the Internet
Organizations looking to undergo a network transformation must evaluate how they can use load balancing and Domain Name System (DNS) solutions to improve network performance and ensure traffic is routed correctly. Also, effective content distribution at a local and global scale is vital for any organization looking to improve its connectivity.
In addition, cellular connectivity plays a critical role in network transformation. For example, LTE connectivity can provide high-bandwidth data services, improve network capacity and throughput, and allow for low-latency applications. Additionally, 5G will enable new use cases such as connected cars and the Internet of Things. As such, it is essential to consider how LTE and 5G can be integrated into the network transformation strategy.
Network security is a critical concern for all businesses. Network transformation can help improve network security by segmenting workloads, encrypting data, and filtering traffic. In addition, an intrusion prevention system can provide an additional layer of security by detecting and preventing attacks before they happen.
How to implement Network Transformation
You know you need to do something about your network, but what? And how? Network transformation can be a daunting task. It’s hard to know where to start and even harder to figure out what will work best for your business.
Every organization will follow a different path based on its unique needs, so it isn’t a good idea to offer prescriptive steps. Instead, it is best to focus on best practices for network transformation. Therefore, we offer three best practices to help you successfully navigate your network transformation journey.
Streamline network management for flexibility
In the digital transformation era, you must discard legacy networks with well-defined boundaries and static configurations in favor of hybrid and multicloud environments that offer uniform experiences.
Create centralized network policies and implement centralized network management using software-defined technologies and multicloud management platforms.
Optimize application-specific data flows
One best practice for implementing network transformation is to optimize application-specific data flows. This can be done by taking advantage of application and network analytics to see traffic moves in real time and determine the best approach to network transformation. For example, if WAN connectivity is the area where congestion continues to occur despite the increase in speeds and latency, then by looking at traffic patterns in real time, it may be possible to determine a better way to route traffic.
Application and network analytics can also help identify other areas for improvement, such as security or capacity.
Invest in automation
Finally, it’s crucial to invest in automation. Network automation can help implement network transformation by simplifying the process and reducing the need for manual intervention. For example, if the enterprise needs to provision networking resources to pivot to a new market trend, network automation can make it possible to do so quickly and with little disruption.
Navigating Your Network Transformation Journey
Network transformation is a journey, not a destination. And like any journey, there are many different paths you can take. But, the best way to navigate your network transformation journey is to focus on best practices – and realize that the process of transformation is continual.