'The WAN that can': what Irish organisations can do with their networksBy Steve Coakley,
'It is an exciting time as network solutions, and how Irish organisations take advantage of them, are evolving faster than ever. Employee collaboration and mobility are the key driving forces behind this evolution. Converging services on to a reliable infrastructure, that’s optimised for a customer’s business, is becoming the norm.
Network management tools
For some Irish organisations management tools can be an afterthought and for others network infrastructure management tools will be the key factor in determining their final purchasing decision. Notably in the last year, the number of enterprises BT work with have made infrastructure visibility, capacity management and fault-isolation must-have requirements. For these multi-site organisations, being able to avail of a service wrap that includes comprehensive performance monitoring and infrastructure management/visibility can really make a service provider stand-out from the competition. The shift has happened and we would expect to see it evolve to application management and then on to true ‘business SLAs’.
Network infrastructure investments
More Irish organisations are investing in one really high quality network platform upon which they can then consolidate all their business services including WANs (wide area network) connectivity, Voice, Video Conferencing and collaboration. There is also the big move towards facilitating and improving better employee collaboration. We see IT Directors have to roll out and provide teams with all manner of products under the unified communications and collaboration umbrella. Unified Communications strategies such as BYOD (bring your own device) or the rollout of collaboration tools, or wide-spread adoption of secure remote access, all rely upon the network. These projects can fail or don’t scale without the right type of investment in the network. It’s back to agility and performance monitoring. In essence the network key to rolling out these strategies successfully.
The network infrastructure investments that Irish organisations are making today under-pin that shift. And as network providers continue to roll-out connectivity to more and more Cloud providers that consolidated network platform becomes even more central to an organisation’s business. The converged network becomes the route organisations will rely upon to access all of their critical services.
Mobility is key, as is BYOD, as more and more employees expect to use and access data on the move via their own device. Service provider solutions across the network, such as secure remote access services, are simple additions to an organisation’s existing MPLS network. The challenge there is security and organisations need to work with an experienced service provider to land on optimum policies to meet their particular needs.
Businesses now understanding that the hardware they have already purchased is capable of far more than they have been using it for. Software licensing options can increase the capability of existing hardware to deliver even more value. Newer converged access routers are feature-rich and should be checked for additional licensed features before splashing-out on new hardware.
Network infrastructure innovations – next 18 months
We will see greater predictability of application performance, adoption of collaboration as a service, closer association of WANs and Cloud services, continued adoption of SDN (software defined network) and NfV (network functions virtualisation) in service provider networks.
Newer customer router equipment, with more functionality (that can use MPLS access, L/L, 3G, etc), will push certain traffic over certain access types based on performance characteristics required. This will deliver a dynamic traffic experience and will use appropriate network assets only when the organisation’s performance parameters are met. This means expensive bandwidth gets reserved for the applications that really need it. A great example of this was where WAN optimisation helped deliver improved application performance, whilst making savings through reduced bandwidth needs. Our customer estimated that they had cut costs by 35 per cent overall, while deferring costly IT projects by extending the life of their IT infrastructure.
In 18 months’ time the internet will be used more as a transport method for business traffic. Planning such changes shouldn’t be taken lightly however. We see these changes working best as a managed service; this to assist with complexity of implementing something new but also very powerful in addressing evolving network strategies.