Why you need to rethink your network


24 Nov 201656 Shares

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BT Ireland’s Steve Coakley offers some advice on hybrid cloud and building networks to thrive in the digital age.

The consequences of what the World Economic Forum calls the fourth industrial revolution may not be known, but there’s a pretty good understanding of what’s driving it, which in turn provides clues as to how best an organisation can survive it.

‘The velocity of change is unprecedented and we’ve already seen the first ripples of it wipe out entire businesses’

Cyber-physical systems, internet of things (IoT) and cloud computing are all enablers of the revolution, driving disruption on a scale that’s affecting organisations across every sector in every country. The velocity of change is unprecedented and we’ve already seen the first ripples of it wipe out entire businesses.

Organisations must build agility into their business ecosystems if they want to thrive in the bubbling cauldron that is the modern global economy, and leverage new technologies to stay competitive and avoid disruption. What’s become abundantly clear is that they will need a network like never before to achieve this.

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Getting the balance right

To survive any transition, you need one foot in the present and another in the future. This certainly applies to the network, not least because it’s hard to swap out and upgrade infrastructure that your business relies on. You need to sweat existing assets while transitioning to new technologies like software-defined networks.

The short-term challenge is about creating a hybrid network that can support hybrid IT services, public and private clouds, as well as connectivity to your own data centre. If you create a hybrid network based purely on the public internet, you won’t benefit from the class of service and security of a private network that an enterprise needs.

‘Get the balance right and wasting more expensive MPLS bandwidth on non-essential traffic will be a thing of the past’

You need to combine multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and internet connectivity, offering different paths for different applications and services. This will allow the business to fully explore the benefits of performance, security, scale and cost savings within the network. Get the balance right and wasting more expensive MPLS bandwidth on non-essential traffic will be a thing of the past.

Future-proofing networks

The next step – the foot in the future part – is virtualised networks, giving organisations the same level of control and flexibility they have grown accustomed to in the data centre with virtualised servers. This is about software-defined (SD) networks that operate in line with application performance.

BT has been at the inception of new network technologies like network function virtualisation and SD networks. With an SD-WAN, the business benefits from an application-centric approach with full visibility of network, application and performance.

SD networks are the way forward for delivering the optimum end-user experience across public/private networks, and controlling how and when bandwidth is allocated to ensure critical applications perform at their best, even in peak periods.

At the same time, network operations are greatly simplified because software functions can be moved to different locations in the network without needing to install new equipment.

‘Businesses can start to take advantage of new technologies and be a part of the fourth industrial revolution, not a victim of it’

Fully transitioning to virtualised networks is going to take time and money. Right now, what’s important is to reconfigure existing network assets to ensure the business can reap the business benefits of new cloud services – scale agility and flexibility – without losing control.

A properly balanced hybrid network will enable organisations to drive cost savings and improve performance across complex hybrid services. It means a business can start to take advantage of new technologies and be a part of the fourth industrial revolution, not a victim of it.

By Steve Coakley

Steve Coakley is head of network propositions for BT Ireland and regularly blogs about his industry insights into network solutions.

A version of this article originally appeared on the BT Ireland blog.