Over the past decade, diverse industries have become more alike than different, as they share one thing in common: The digital fabric that runs beneath every interaction, transaction, and experience that companies have with employees, customers, and partners.
The Digital Disruption Has Just Begun!
Digital transformation has levelled the playing field, making it possible for startups to compete with—and sometimes overtake—established organizations. In a recent survey conducted by VMWare, 80% of companies believe their industry will be disrupted by digital trends, including Airlines, Food and amp; Beverage, and Retail. The same survey indicated that 60% of all new cloud application designs will include the use of AI and/or analytics services by 2020, driving increasing intelligence to mainstream business.
Now more than ever, businesses must innovate, or risk being left behind. Staking out an advantage requires companies to move fast, respond quickly to changing demands, and deliver performance and security at every touch point. And they can’t do it without strategic guidance and a future-ready infrastructure provided by IT. As your IT team looks to the future, five key trends will drive your decisions:
- Applications are setting the pace: Applications enable rich, dynamic experiences that allow people to work, shop, and consume information from anywhere, at any time. They’ve entirely changed the way businesses interact with customers. As a result, IT organizations need a dependable way to deliver, manage, and secure applications across environments and around the clock.
- Speed is non-negotiable: The digital era is all about acceleration. IT teams are on the hook to deliver services fast, bring apps to market soon, and respond to changing conditions on a real-time basis. There is no cruise control—companies that want to develop and maintain an edge must quickly assess demand, rapidly create and deliver solutions, and keep on accelerating.
- More workloads are moving to the Cloud: Applications were once limited to local data centers, but now they’re moving to the public cloud. It’s easy to understand why: Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have made it fast and affordable to access infinite IT resources. All you need is a credit card. In the future, more companies will embrace a multi-cloud strategy, as they look to bring more apps to market fast.
- More services will be at the branch: Businesses will continue to push more and more services out to their departments. To support this, IT teams will need to improve the quality of application and communications service delivery through reliable and secure infrastructure, all while keeping branch WAN management costs under control.
- The Internet of Things is a big deal: The Internet of Things (IoT) has gone mainstream, as companies across industries explore use cases and opportunities that embed technology into appliances, vehicles, and even industrial machines. As more things become connected, apps and data will become increasingly distributed—and IT must connect, manage, and secure it all while ensuring accessibility.
With Change Comes Responsibility
Each of these trends has implications that directly affect you. As you grapple with increasing volumes of applications and data that are more distributed than ever, your IT organization may be asking:
- How can we maintain consistent connectivity across everything?
- How can we keep everything secure?
Network connectivity is no simple matter!
Networks were designed to connect users to applications. In the past, those applications were in the data center, where they were easy to find, tied to a physical system, and rarely moved. A hardware-based network was the logical choice for this setup, and for a long time, it worked well.
Today, applications are no longer confined to one place. They’re distributed and ephemeral, moving across different services in different locations to work and access data that is also in different areas. The entire dynamic has changed, but the network hasn’t kept up. What IT needs is a consistent network that extends beyond the traditional data center.
Remember the burgeoning explosion that’s about to happen in IoT? Now take that complexity and increase it by several orders of magnitude. When pervasive connectivity is required from the data center to the Cloud to the edge, things get convoluted fast.
Networking in a hyper-connected, hyper-distributed world
Building a network for this evolving environment requires a thoughtful, strategic approach that supports what you need today and where technology is going tomorrow.
- Software is vital: Your primary network should be based on software. You’ll still have hardware devices for the different parts of your system, but the software will enable you to get the most value out of that high-speed underlay. Built-in network software abstracts network services from the infrastructure so that they can be applied anywhere. The result? Pervasive connectivity and simplified management.
- Infrastructure should be programmable: In the digital era, you can’t take a “one and done” approach to your network; things are always changing, and you need to adapt continuously. Your network should be built on an API-first mentality, with a suite of APIs that can be connected to a wide variety of applications. It should also be programmable so that it can respond to traffic trends.
- Configuration must be automated: When market leadership depends on speed, you can’t rely on a network that needs to be manually configured. It’s too slow, it increases your risk exposure, and it opens you up to errors that could lead to network outages. With automation, your network can run independently, without the need for human intervention.
Security Risks Are Growing
As the digital fabric becomes more complex, the threat landscape is intensifying, too. From the sophistication of cyber-attacks to the potential damage they inflict, the risks are getting bigger. Organizations large and small know that it is a matter of when not if, they’ll be attacked, and the threat level isn’t expected to recede anytime soon.
Since security breaches are a fact of life, it stands to reason that staying on the defensive and chasing threats is not a sustainable strategy. What you want is a security solution that allows you to be proactive and stay prepared at all times. What you need is a network that enables you to do exactly that.
An application-centric approach to network security
As applications move across environments, they are highly vulnerable. Perimeter-centric solutions can’t deliver pervasive security that they need to be secure. That’s why it is important to make security an intrinsic part of the infrastructure. Policies should follow applications wherever they are and wherever they go, not based on what hardware they happen to sit on or near.
With network virtualization, you can define granular application protection policies at the hypervisor level, based on the intent and behavior of each app. You can view, detect, and isolate threats in the hypervisor without compromising security. When security is integrated into the core functions, it becomes far more effective.
One thing is clear: As the digital enterprise continues to evolve, the Cloud, branch, and edge require a different type of network than that of the past. The right networking and security strategy for this new, hyper-connected world of distributed IT, applications, and devices are one that is unified and intrinsic. It should be designed on cloud fundamentals and should be based on software, application-centric, and fully automated.
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