By Andre Kannemeyer, National CTO at Duxbury Networking
Digital transformation is one of today’s biggest buzzwords and depending on who you ask, you will almost always get a different answer. In short, digital transformation is the application of technology to create new services and processes by leveraging the convergence of people, processes and networked things.
This requires companies to evolve their business operations to increase revenue, lower costs, and achieve unprecedented levels of efficiency if they want to gain a sustainable advantage over the competition.
Companies need to embrace agility and disrupt themselves before they are disrupted. Business agility needs a dynamic IT foundation.
Today, achieving and maintaining market leadership is based on an organisation’s ability to recognise shifts in the business landscape and adapt faster than their competitors can. The option of becoming a digital enterprise is no longer limited to companies born during the cloud era.
For most companies today, the network is the business. The Internet of Things (IoT) is now a reality, and businesses are connecting billions of devices to their networks to gather massive amounts of data that can be used to discover key insights on customers.
The cloud is an important network-centric technology that is allowing businesses to operate in new ways. Mobility also relies on the network, workers need the ability to perform any task from any location, with the expectation that their experience while working remotely will be the same as if they were in the office.
The reality is that the network plays a major role in the delivery of new customer experiences and improvements in worker productivity.
Software-defined networks (SDNs) have been viewed as a solution to all present network problems and although they do allow tasks to be automated, the decision regarding what to change, when to implement and where to apply must still be made by a senior network engineer on a production network.
Running a network
A network that can run itself by understanding business rules and policies and ensuring those are always being met offers a better solution for businesses. This could be accomplished by a fully autonomous network that brings together hardware, software, big data and artificial intelligence.
The evolving business environment is putting new demands on the network that cannot be met with traditional architectures due to challenges like slow network operations, a lack of automation, high operational costs, proprietary protocols define products and security is not inherent in the network,
An autonomous network is the next evolutionary step in networking and advances many of the capabilities created by software-defined networks. A good analogy of the differences between an autonomous network and a network that is automated is to look at the changes in the automotive industry.
Cars have had automation capabilities such as parking assist and cruise control for several years, but the operator of the vehicle makes the decision as to how fast to drive or whether it can park in a certain spot. With automation, the driver decides where to go, and then the automobile executes the commands to get there.
With an autonomous vehicle, the driver issues a command such as “drive me to the airport,” and the car will complete this task following the rules and policies. A self-driving car understands all the rules, speed limits and congestion points, and it completes the tasks with these in mind.
Although software-defined networks are not the same as autonomous networks, using software to run the network provides agility and programmability for autonomous networking. Whereas SDNs are largely limited to the data centre, an autonomous network encompasses the whole network including the campus, branch offices and the data centre, the WAN, IoT edge and provides security at every point.
The end-to-end nature of an autonomous network is critical to its ability to gather data across the network so a business policy can be enforced everywhere.
The benefits of embracing an autonomous network:
- Self-validation and intent-based network
- Predictive management
- Faster provisioning of new services
- Operational cost savings
- Better network security
- Increased network reliability
- Optimised application performance
Digital transformation has arrived, and it’s changing the business landscape faster than ever. Speed, agility and flexibility will dictate whether a company is a market leader or a straggler—or even whether it goes out of business.
IT leaders must look to evolve the network from the legacy, static asset it is today into a strategic resource that can create competitive differentiation.