Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Networks sub-Saharan Africa
Networking architectures over the past two decades have traditionally been built around the hub of the network in a specific location. Though that has been standard operating procedure for many years, it doesn’t fit the needs for many enterprises today. For one thing, there has been a major shift to the cloud.
Advanced networking is the unsung hero of our digital future, offering a continuum of connectivity that can drive the development of new products and services or transform inefficient operating models. Expect to see companies across sectors and geographies take advantage of advanced connectivity to configure and operate tomorrow’s enterprise networks.
Increasingly, networking technologies are transforming enterprise architecture today. For example, proliferating mobile devices, sensors, serverless computing, exploding volumes of shared data, and automation all require advanced connectivity and differentiated networking.
Going forward, one of the CIO’s primary responsibilities will be getting data from where it is collected, to where it is analysed, to where it is required to drive decisions.
Advanced connectivity raises the bar on network flexibility, making it possible to configure networks to fit different types of performance and availability requirements. Network management frameworks are increasingly allowing companies to dynamically configure and control network resources through software.
The latest advanced connectivity building blocks include:
5G. It offers greater speed, lower latency, and—most importantly—the ability to connect massive numbers of sensors and smart devices within a network. How? By breaking technology constraints. With 5G, many networking protocols can coexist to meet device and application-specific requirements. 5G acts as a unifying technology, bringing together all the networking capabilities needed to manage the information flow and density at scale.
Software-defined networking. SDN is a software layer that sits atop a physical network composed of networking appliances such as switches and routers. Usually restricted to use within the data center, the technology is now being extended for wide area networking (SD-WAN) to connect data centers or other multilocation applications.
Network function virtualisation. NFV replaces network functions such as routing, switching, encryption, firewalling, WAN acceleration, and load balancing provided by dedicated physical network appliances with virtualised software.
Network as a Service (NaaS). It is a business model for delivering enterprise-wide area network services virtually on a subscription basis. The functionality of the infrastructure may be included in a single NaaS flat fee, or the business may individually subscribe to each service.
Bandwidth on-demand. It is a service that allocates network resources based on the needs of particular devices on that network. More bandwidth is allocated to nodes experiencing peak demands, and, as demand subsides, bandwidth is scaled down.
CIOs can use these advanced connectivity building blocks with existing local area networking technologies like Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and wide-area capabilities such as Gigabit broadband to create configurable networks that can be tailored to fit a variety of enterprise needs.
As you begin developing your connectivity of tomorrow strategy, consider the following demand and supply factors:
Growing demand for real-time computation and low latency at the end device. Applications such as industrial automation, virtual reality, and autonomous decision-making will require high computation capabilities. For IoT networks that generate and move massive amounts of data, edge computing is a game-changer.
Proliferation of connected devices to monitor and manage. Enabled by 5G, both the volume and variety of connected device types are expected to dramatically increase within an enterprise. These devices are likely to have a range of operating systems, computing, storage, and networking capabilities.
IT talent models evolve. Talent models will need to evolve as IT talent upskills and retrains to address the new normal.
As capabilities such as 5G, SDN, and NFV are advancing, so are compute and storage, significantly affecting enterprise compute infrastructure and data architecture. As you develop strategies for connectivity and cloud, both should align with the strategic goals set forth in your digital transformation agenda. Across industries, this transformation will only accelerate as the total number of devices across networks grows exponentially.