|Issue:||Europe II 2016|
|Topic:||The future of networks – giving power back to IT|
|Title:||Head of Networks|
Andrew Chant is Head of Networks at Exponential-e
Andrew Chant has over 15 years experience in the connectivity industry. He joined Exponential-e in 2005, following five years at Datanet, where he was Network Manager. He is an expert in network technology, including WAN, VoIP and IP.
Our recent research revealed that a third of businesses are battling escalating software and hardware costs, 21 per cent admitted that there is a lack of internal control over the network and 17 per cent said that their current IT infrastructure was unable to cope with growth. Clearly, the pressure is closing in for IT teams. One of the key technology developments that will help organisations overcome these challenges is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). IDC predicts that IaaS will be the fastest growing area of the market between 2014 and 2018.
With businesses increasingly embracing new and emerging technologies, network infrastructures will be rapidly transforming over the next few years.
One of the key drivers for this change is the unrelenting growth of data storage needs, which is creating demand for ever-more innovative network designs. With more and more internet-based devices, networks need to be optimised in order to deal with the higher volumes. Networking speeds must increase to cope with the number of bandwidth-hungry applications, data centre racks require optimisation to manage the movement of big data and the cloud has to be able to connect both environments and devices.
As such, businesses today demand and rely on robust IT infrastructures to support business critical applications, while still having the flexibility to cater for operational growth. Despite this, many organisations don’t necessarily want to invest internally in designing, buying, building, deploying and managing the complex and costly infrastructures that are needed to support new technologies. Cloud has become mainstream and enterprises expect to use it to level the playing field. However, with technology becoming more and more central to the running of an organisation, many businesses are hoping to regain control of their network infrastructures to best suit their needs and meet the demands of their changing organisations.
Our recent research revealed that a third of businesses are battling escalating software and hardware costs, 21 per cent admitted that there is a lack of internal control over the network and 17 per cent said that their current IT infrastructure was unable to cope with growth. Clearly, the pressure is closing in for IT teams.
Moving out, staying in
One of the key technology developments that will help organisations overcome these challenges is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). IDC predicts that IaaS will be the fastest growing area of the market between 2014 and 2018. But before companies can adopt IaaS and retain control over their networks, they need to consider how they plan to consume and use the many variations of cloud that exist in the market. Weighing up the pros and cons of the private, public and hybrid cloud options is about understanding your businesses needs and key priorities.
The private cloud is the model that has evolved in most organisations. Many enterprises have built their own infrastructure and automation for development and testing or running internal web services, often using new and efficient methods to facilitate it. Yet, when compared to the public cloud, it doesn’t necessarily provide the same amount of flexibility and agility – which can be restrictive for businesses.
In comparison, the public cloud is a service that has always been available to all. It appeals and is used by the mass market for backing-up files, streaming music, films and email services. Surprisingly, despite advocating a private solution, many global organisations adopt public cloud in one manner or another. This solution may be suitable for parts of the IT estate, but is certainly not secure enough to provide storage for the most important data and documents running over a network.
In contrast, a hybrid solution provides the flexibility and agility of a public cloud, whilst still providing the security a business needs and would receive with a private cloud. Increasingly, a hybrid model provides the foundations of the infrastructure for next generation technology. Instead of making an upfront capital investment in hardware or relying solely on existing architectures, enterprises can simply purchase more computing power or server space from their cloud provider as and when it’s needed. This could be anything from a highly-scalable, low cost architecture for a Big Data project to a high-capacity cloud network that can be scaled for peaks in web traffic. A hybrid cloud model provides just the sort of flexible environment needed to make that a possibility, whilst at the same time providing security measures resilient enough to free up business to focus on improving services and business insight.
It is this combination of existing infrastructure and burstable cloud that will make it much easier and more useful for IT departments to utilise IaaS to maintain power over their networks and to innovate their business. For example, internal IT can adapt resources to individual business needs. Rather than being tied to a fixed functionality or restricted by security worries, they have the ability to provide the best tools for the business quickly and efficiently.
Empowering the network
A key method of optimising your IaaS to facilitate innovation is Software Defined Networking (SDN). SDN is being labelled as the future of networking for its ability to deliver greater efficiency and automation.
SDN technologies prioritise the innovation goal – empowering the organisation to shift its onus away from users and a reliance on manual processes, towards an automated approach coordinated by a ‘central brain’. SDN effectively allows organisations to reconfigure network services on-demand. Enterprises are no longer subject to change controls, service tickets or related support and management fees. Instead they can adapt the services that network providers deliver, through a simple self-service interface.
However, our research also revealed that 86 per cent of businesses do not understand SDN and 95 per cent do not know what benefits it could bring to their enterprise. Given the IT difficulties being faced by businesses in 2016, more organisations need to take advantage of SDN to eliminate the bottleneck of human intervention and provide a central system to manage the services required, and monitor the associated activity.
The bottom line is that no business should have to choose between the flexibility of their infrastructure or the control over their own internal networks. As businesses drive their agendas towards digital transformation, they will need to be equipped with the IT infrastructure to deliver the best services available.
Long-term, this allows IT to evolve from backroom engineers into IT strategists that act as a vital resource to meeting business objectives and driving revenue. While 2015 was the year that the cloud evolved, 2016 will be the year that IT takes control. Having the right technology will be paramount. It’s become increasingly apparent that the businesses taking the lead in 2016 and beyond will be those making the best and most innovative use of emerging technologies, keeping one step ahead of the curve.