opinion


The business case for network automation

virtual network

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Colin Evans, Senior Director EMEA Centre-of-Excellence, Juniper Networks looks at the definition, implications and best practice of digital transformation.

I’m often asked about digital transformation and what it means. While there are many ways to define it, there is one universal truth – that many organisations are having to react to change and innovate faster than ever before.

Equally, during these conversations, I’m struck by the extent to which the digital economy continues to exert pressure across every aspect of a business, forcing change on almost every level. And fuelling this change, in an always connected/always available world, is extremely high customer expectations, meaning that today’s commercial imperative is not only focused on keeping up with market forces, but finding ways to stay ahead of them.

So when looking across this new economic landscape and the many opportunities it presents, it’s clear the entire organisation has to evolve with it. And whether it’s an enterprise or SMB, a public sector organisation or service provider, transforming into a fast-moving, agile digital business is a journey many organisations have already begun, while many others have yet to start (and few can ignore if they wish to survive).

The digital transformation journey will require some new thinking, new ideas and perhaps even a new way of looking at your I.T. and networking infrastructure.

As far as technology goes, the main commercial asset is the network which underpins your I.T. infrastructure. But for you to be competitive, it needs to evolve with you, perform tasks faster – and seamlessly – and just as critically, anticipate and adapt to change.

Five things you should know…

1. Software-Defined Networks (SDN): SDN is a network technology that provides the means to simplify complex, operational tasks through automation. By leveraging software control capabilities to automate key networking functions, SDN creates a highly agile network infrastructure. This means that labour-intensive, manual tasks can be minimised, or even eliminated, while new services and applications can be rolled out more quickly, more efficiently and with less risk.

2. Virtualisation: Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) is an approach that uses software principles previously employed in I.T. systems to create virtualised instances of network functions. Instead of using physical devices to enable the functions, NFV technology decouples them from specialised hardware and implements these functions in software running on generic, off-the-shelf, x86 servers. As one of the technology building blocks of SDN, virtualisation has a great many benefits in its own right, yet when adding SDN’s ability to automate and manage network resource lifecycles, the benefits are multiplied.

3. Cloud-based computing: The promise of a programmable, virtualised platform that builds automation throughout the network and which can be tailored to manage service delivery across all environments is a key aspect in driving a cloud strategy. Highly scalable, secure and ready to adapt to customer needs, cloud platforms can provide significant agility for enterprises or service providers operating in an increasingly competitive marketplace.  In a cloud environment, applications and services can be delivered on industry standard compute hardware, where programming the required functions into virtual devices is possible for building self-service, automated, capabilities at ‘cloud-speed’.

4. Protecting your network from the inside out: The proliferation of cloud connectivity, BYOD and IoT means all organisations face an ever-changing threat landscape with the surface area for cyber-attacks set to become larger than ever. Changing how and where to deploy security in the network becomes even more critical as threats exist not only outside the network, many are most likely already inside. The traditional ‘castle’ method of just relying on network security at the perimeter is no longer enough. To counter emerging risks, a fully automated approach is needed which embeds security (both physical and virtual) within the entire network at all levels, not just at the edges, and which dynamically adapts to new threats.

In place of existing, multi-layered perimeter solutions, a software-defined secure network (SDSN) enables every port on the network to be an enforcement point. SDSN leverages cloud-based network intelligence and analytics to identify and mitigate threats – both from inside and outside the organisation – with policy-based enforcement implemented dynamically to protect the network in real-time. And by utilising all network resources to help enforce security, not just dedicated hardware, the entire network becomes an ecosystem for security intelligence and an active participant in the protection against threats.

5. Future-proofing I.T. infrastructure: As business resources evolve towards virtualisation and the cloud, no single vendor will have a solution for it all. But a multi-vendor, open environment is an example of how the I.T. community is building flexibility and freedom of choice right into the heart of the network. And as networks experience a variety of changes, an open infrastructure not only provides best-in-class solutions but can mitigate risk, handle contingencies and be flexible enough to grow and evolve with the business.

For me, today’s digital transformation can be defined as changing the way we do business by utilising new technologies to increase the pace of innovation and improve the customer experience… it’s about understanding how to take advantage of market disruption to enhance, extend, and evolve an organisation to discover what’s possible both today, tomorrow and beyond.

 

Colin Evans (Juniper)Colin Evans is Senior Director, and Head of Juniper’s Centre-of-Excellence (CoE) for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). The CoE facility was purpose-built to showcase Juniper’s industry-focused solutions and the latest innovations in data centre, virtualisation (NFV / SDN), security, and routing technologies. Colin leads a team which is responsible for supporting and demonstrating new network platforms, reference architectures and use cases to clients. Colin possesses almost 29 years of experience in I.T. and networking in various technical, marketing, sales and business development roles. He has previously worked at Nortel Networks (formerly Standard Telephones and Cables), Newbridge Networks (now Alcatel IPD) and Cisco Systems.

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