The role of network modernization

Network modernization and transformation, from the datacenter to the wide area network and the branch, are integral facets of enterprise efforts to modernize IT infrastructure in service to digital transformation. Unleashing the power of data throughout cloud, network and edge is a massive opportunity that creates new business growth. It is a process driven by waves of new technology and is shaped by cloudification of the network, the rise of artificial intelligence capabilities, the advancement of 5G and the demand for edge services.

As applications have become increasingly important to business outcomes, and as the application landscape has been redefined by cloud and multi-cloud, the network must adapt architecturally. This change must occur in the datacenter, where fixed boundaries have been redefined by cloud, and at the branch, where application-driven connectivity requirements and operational needs have similarly been recast by cloud adoption.

Cloud is a key means by which organizations realize digital transformation. Cloud adoption occurs within the larger context of transformation of the IT department and the need for IT agility. Spending on cloud IT infrastructure is expected to exceed spending on traditional IT infrastructure on an annualized basis, confirming the new reality of hybrid IT and cloud.

Network modernization is essential to enterprise success in the cloud realm. The network, after all, is the backbone and nervous system connecting the various distributed datacenters — on premises, co-location facilities, IaaS public clouds, and SaaS services — to the network edge, which includes employees at branch offices and customers and partners globally.

All networks may be different, but companies have similar goals when they look to upgrade their network infrastructures. Assessing current designs is just the first step. The term infrastructure modernization means different things to different people. After all, no two enterprise network infrastructures are built with the same business goals in mind.

IT decision-makers have found a better and more efficient infrastructure is to migrate applications, data and other IT services to one or more public clouds using a hybrid cloud or multi-cloud model. Additionally, modern edge computing architectures bring cloud compute capabilities closer to end users or autonomous devices – creating better application performance for latency-sensitive apps.

A detailed assessment of business-critical applications, data and network flows will help determine where performance and cost efficiencies can be gained. It’s here where some applications or processes should be flagged to be replaced with modern alternatives that operate more efficiently in highly distributed hybrid, multi-cloud or edge computing designs.

Previously, the datacenter network was exclusively on-premises, but multi-cloud means that the datacenter becomes inherently distributed and more complex to provision and manage. Even in the on-premises datacenter, in the context of relentless digital transformation, the network must become more agile, automated, flexible, programmable, and open. In other words, cloudlike network infrastructure and operational models apply everywhere, not just in public clouds. Cloud is at least as much an operational model as it is a destination.

Networks and those who operate them face daunting modernization challenges, but fortunately, solutions have been developed to address cloud requirements. In the datacenter, software-defined networking (SDN) has emerged as an architectural approach to datacenter networking in the cloud realm. SDN is an architectural model that can help better align network infrastructure with the needs of application workloads through automated provisioning; programmatic network management; application-oriented, networkwide visibility; and direct integration with cloud orchestration platforms.

The need for network modernization has been felt even more keenly on the WAN. SD-WAN has emerged as a solution for modern enterprises dependent on the cloud and on a workforce requiring ‘anytime, anywhere’ application access. SD-WAN decouples the application from underlying network transports, providing the flexibility to run any application for any transport or combination of transports, which can include MPLS, business- and consumer-grade broadband internet, and 4G/5G.

A typical SD-WAN offering includes an application-based policy controller, analytics and telemetry for application and network visibility, a secure software (virtual) overlay, and an SD-WAN forwarder at the branch. These technologies are combined in SD-WAN to provide application-driven intelligent path selection throughout heterogeneous WAN transports based on policies centrally defined on the controller.

As organizations grapple with the implications of digital transformation and the need to harness hybrid IT and multi-cloud amid a skills shortage relative to new technologies, they are demanding approaches that mitigate complexity and deliver simplicity. After all, complexity is the enemy of agility, which is crucial for digital transformation.

Glow’s role

Here at Glow, we focus on providing end-to-end services, to build 5G networks, which are an integral part of network modernization. We play an active role in the legacy network optimization (TDM to IP migrations) space to prepare networks to support 5G needs.

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