Is Your Network Ready for the Cloud? Network Modernization for Cloud-First Enterprises

21 Jul 2020 by Joel St.Germain

The cloud is starting to take over nearly all aspects of IT and empowering the modern enterprise to innovate quicker, deliver faster, and provide a better user experience for their customers and employees. Agree or disagree?

It’s estimated that 83% of enterprise workloads will operate in the cloud by the end of 2020. For enterprises focused on the cloud as part of their digital transformation, the underlying network may impede progress as it was not designed with cloud-based workloads in mind.

Operating legacy network infrastructure becomes a real challenge for IT as it evaluates the impacts of cloud on performance, availability, security, and costs.

Is Your Network Ready for the Cloud?

It’s a not so simple question. Is your network ready for the cloud? For many businesses, legacy network technology and infrastructure is an impediment to your digital transformation. This is especially true when implementing hybrid cloud and multi-cloud infrastructure.

Your network is a critical piece of the cloud equation. It determines how your data traverses your network. It determines how users connect to your network. It determines how your cloud-based applications and platforms interact with your network.

Legacy Network Infrastructure Designed Pre-Cloud

Today’s IT operates very differently than in the past. For starters, there’s input and direction from new IT groups and departments like DevOps, SysOps, and SecOps. And with each group and department adding to the conversation, requirements for your network become increasingly complex. It is further compounded as your enterprise becomes increasingly dependent on the cloud for services such as cloud communications, software, apps, servers, data storage, and backup. All of which places a tremendous strain on IT, network administrators, and the enterprise as a whole.

It’s a simple fact that many present-day network technologies were designed before the advent of big data, internet of things (IoT), Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), and software as a service (SaaS). Although compatible with the cloud, they’re typically not best suited from a performance, availability, and cost standpoint to meet future cloud demands.

Whether you realize it or not, it is likely that your end-users are feeling the strain of the network on their performance. According to a recent study, 37 percent of executives agree that their legacy networks aren’t ready to support cloud applications, although many enterprises rely heavily on public and private cloud applications.

Rushing into Digital Transformation

So, why are so many enterprises implementing a cloud-first strategy without addressing their fundamental and underlying network infrastructure? That’s a good question.

Many enterprises rush to implement exciting new technologies as a part of their digital transformation and rush to jump into the cloud. They do so without fully understanding the network and bandwidth constraints placed on their IT infrastructure prior to implementation. In reality, network modernization should be one of your first steps and not just an afterthought.

Within your digital transformation plan, there’s the opportunity to make recommendations for new network architecture and technologies. Make sure to point out how network infrastructure can help future-proof your technology, streamline your network operations, simplify management, and reduce costs.

Recognizing the Need for Better Connectivity

Whether using a private cloud that is connected to a corporate Wide Area Network (WAN) or multiple public cloud providers interconnected with private clouds across the globe, your enterprise is at risk for network congestion and oversubscribed bandwidth which impacts performance and ultimately leads to poor user experience for customers, partners and employees.

Poor user experience has measurable effects on the bottom line. A recent study concluded that 52% of employees are unhappy at work due to the software they are using, and 24% said poor resources have made them consider leaving their jobs.

As for the customer, application and software providers understand that in order to win over their customers, they must provide the best possible experience. A study showed that for 73% of users, application performance impacts their opinion of the provider, and 38% reported being disappointed with the performance of their apps.

Most digital applications and services including video and audio streaming, software and applications operate on month-to-month subscriptions. The ease of switching to another provider means customers are not held back from ditching a bad service provider. This is a fact that should concern providers that have not yet give thought to network modernization.

With this in mind, the consequence of poor connectivity and network design is even more pronounced in case you have users accessing apps from throughout the globe. Routes become congested because they’re not optimally designed for how users interact with data and applications now.

Because of this, enterprises face not only lower throughput and greater latency but also greater costs. The urge to solve network congestion leads to a focus on prioritizing certain services while demoting others or simply adding bandwidth. However, these upgrades do not provide the required visibility and control over connectivity.

Starting Your Network Modernization

Thus, what can you do to address Network Modernization challenges within your enterprise? Forging your way to higher-functioning cloud connectivity starts with gaining a deeper understanding of the relationship between data usage patterns and your network infrastructure.

It’s important to start by exploring your data usage as well as where your data and applications live. Gain an understanding of where your people are and what applications they’re accessing day-to-day. Throughout this process, you should ask yourself questions such as the following:

- Where’s our cloud infrastructure located?
- How does our enterprise connect to the cloud?
- Do we have public or private connections to the cloud?
- Where does our data reside?
- Where is our physical infrastructure located?
- Where are our users located?
- How are our users accessing the cloud and our network?
- Do we have domestic and international locations?
- What is our hourly, daily, weekly, and or monthly bandwidth patterns?
- Are there spikes in our bandwidth utilization?
- What type of network are we using today?
- Is our network built for cloud-based workloads?

Taking the time to understand these questions offers valuable insight into your network strategy. It can also assist in formulating a strategy on how to allocate network infrastructure resources and where for optimal performance.

When you do so, it becomes clear which areas of your network are ready for optimization.

Network Modernization and Digital Transformation Strategy

To begin implementing your network modernization strategy, you’ll have to start by examining your current architecture versus new technologies, providers, and end-to-end management capabilities. It is important to realize that there is not any single network solution that reaches everywhere for everything. When defining your transformed hybrid network, you will most likely have to look at multiple providers and technologies, then plan to handle those services cohesively for optimal performance.

Depending on the information map of where your visitors and customers are located and the type of cloud services and data centers you use, examine, and design network technologies that solve for the usage at each location. Your transformed architecture will likely be a hybrid including a combination of fiber, Ethernet, and IP services. A hybrid network may also leverage existing services at which they still work best and add optimized new services to achieve the desired overall results.

Hiring an IT consultant, such as Global Consulting Group (GCG), can enable you to access all these elements and optimize your own cloud connectivity strategy based on your business drivers and technology requirements. In researching the best consultant and provider to partner with, you should keep specific requirements in mind. To begin with, your IT consultant must offer a wide portfolio of technology options – after all, no one technology or provider will be the right fit for every location or business.

Second, you should prioritize providers that center on software-defined intelligence to monitor and route your workloads depending on traffic patterns and congestion points. With unified, end-to-end visibility, and service management across fiber, Ethernet, and IP services, the provider should be able to consciously manage the bandwidth your business is using from every office location to data centers, to each of the private and public cloud applications your enterprise relies on.

Future-Proofing Your Network for Cloud Apps

As your users become more reliant on the cloud to run and build their internal and external applications, a connectivity catastrophe could occur if the network isn’t managed properly.

Because of technology’s rising role in all our lives, users are more accustomed to lower latency and greater performance in all the applications they use. Enterprises that do not act on network modernization will eventually reach a tipping point in which their un-optimized networks’ inability to function renders them totally incapable of keeping pace with competitors and satisfying their users.

The challenges posed by legacy Infrastructure against ever-increasing cloud use can compel enterprises to get smarter about its cloud connectivity strategy. The ideal network transformation could supply a future-proof solution that will grow with enterprise business and its digital strategy.

With a software-defined Interconnected network material, the WAN could be optimized and groomed as new Services become available or new enterprise requirements are created. Delivering an agile, dynamic solution capable of seamlessly absorbing new Technology innovations will keep your enterprise competitive for many years to come.

Author

Joel St.Germain

CEO and Founder - Datacenters.com

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