By Wimpie van Rensburg, Riverbed’s Country Manager for Sub Saharan Africa.
2015 will likely be seen as the year when enterprises pushed aside their fears of cloud computing. Over 70% of companies now utilise cloud-based applications and services, according to Gartner and the Harvard Business Review, although these companies still keep some critical systems and information stored in the data centre. The widespread adoption of this hybrid IT infrastructure model will lead to 2016 becoming the year when the branch office ends its relationship with an old friend – the router.
Technology is finally in a place that enables IT to help the business how it wants to be helped, not the other way around. Instead of implementing systems and applications with the sole objective of meeting IT’s operational goals, technologies like software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN), which connect the data centre to all remote locations and to various cloud-based services, enables other business leaders – including the CIO, CFO and COO –to understand how they can use technology to help them achieve their own business goals.
Whether it’s the ever-growing number of organisations now riding the SD-WAN wave, or the fact that the software-defined concept is less abstract to non-IT professionals, the question is no longer “what is SD-WAN?” it’s “what can I do with SD-WAN?”
The hybrid enterprise – it’s here to stay
While companies increasingly migrate applications and systems to the cloud, the hybrid enterprise will remain the most common IT infrastructure model. The increase in network complexity, virtualization, and new, highly distributed application architectures, coupled with the reliance on applications for business, demands a radical new approach to how IT operations look at their network and application performance infrastructure.
In 2016, CIOs will look to leverage technologies that focus on automation, intelligence and orchestration in a move to try to control the distributed network that they have been unable to control. They will also focus on key performance indicators (KPIs) to help them demonstrate to other department leaders, the C-suite and even the Board, how IT aligns directly to the business needs of the organisation. This means knowing how their apps are being delivered, whether performance levels remain high, and whether the user experience meets expectations. Otherwise, CIOs will have a difficult time defending the IT organisation as more than a cost centre.
This requires leveraging solutions that provide greater visibility into performance, security and end-user experience for applications across the entire network, including cloud-based resources.
Don’t overlook the branch
On average, companies are operating 55 remote IT facilities for every large data centre. Nearly half of all employees work in branch offices, about 50 per cent of all data resides outside the data centre, and IT has to devote 50 per cent of its budget to branch offices. However, branch offices still play second fiddle to the data centre. While the data centre gets the latest and greatest technologies for data protection, backup and security, the branch remains stuck in the 1990’s with tape backups and no advanced physical security measures like fingerprint scanners and man traps.
If a branch goes down, IT is not likely to have a full-time employee on-site, which makes trying to figure out what’s happened to the data, how to back it up or recover it, and how much time that will take a difficult, time-consuming and expensive task.
That’s where enabling Zero Branch IT plays a critical role in providing users with anytime, anywhere access to apps and information, while still providing IT the centralised control and visibility it needs. Everything is managed inside a secure, centralised data centre and delivered with local performance out to the branch.
The resulting benefits are numerous, including greater visibility and control. In turn, these ensure a reduction in the risk of a data breach and simpler IT management, which enables faster remediation of issues to better ensure information availability and accelerate application performance. This kind of stateless approach means systems serving existing branches can be redeployed, upgraded, moved or migrated with ease, and expanded to accommodate the opening of new branch offices.
While companies can slash their entire branch IT costs by eliminating the need to purchase, maintain and protect servers in branch offices, employees will encounter fewer instances of system outages or slow application performance, enabling them to do their work whether they’re in the office or traveling, from any type of device.
To meet the complexity associated with increased cloud usage and to gain control of the data centre, CIOs are responding by harnessing technologies that can differentiate their business, provide a better customer experience and ultimately help them gain a competitive edge. They are leading enterprise IT teams through one of the biggest transitions in a decade, as organisations go hybrid and implement software-defined networks.
IT teams will begin implementing complete solutions for visibility, optimisation and control in order to move to a software-defined enterprise with more agility and take full advantage of cloud, SaaS, hybrid and SD-WAN options. As a result, the 2016 network will no longer need to rely on that long-time stalwart of networking, the router. A software-defined approach to applications will become the norm.