Large organisations are facing fundamental decisions about their future edge strategy – how they handle network connections to remote offices and branches. Virtualisation and the cloud have already had a major impact on compute and storage strategies. In many ways the missing piece until now has been the ability to use virtualisation to gain similar flexibility and agility benefits when it comes to network provision and management, so much of which still depends on proprietary hardware and dedicated circuits.
Although there are a range of technology options – including SD-WAN and NFV – that allow you to start building a virtualised edge strategy today, the questions you need to address are far broader than individual technology choices. Indeed, before deciding which technologies to deploy (and how), you first need to understand the optimum time to begin the transition – for example, if you’ve refreshed hardware fairly recently or need to utilise your existing assets for a bit longer, you might want to hold off for now, but if you have a refresh coming up soon, now would be a good time to start looking at alternatives.
You also need to know the benefits you hope to achieve. Are you primarily interested in boosting your agility, improving productivity or reducing cost, for example? For most organisations, it’s a combination, but specific priorities will determine what technologies you deploy, and how.
Another major consideration is the cultural impact on the IT function. Indeed, one of the least frequently mentioned aspects of this transition is preparing for fundamental changes to your model of IT service management. Effective security management, too, is critical.
Think too about how you want to procure and manage your virtual services. For example, we’ve noticed growing demand for voice services to be bundled in with virtual network services, and ultimately this may well extend to unified communications functionality.
There are lots of ifs, but one thing’s certain – it’s a question of when and how. The technology and service models still have some way to evolve, but once it’s possible to spin up and manage networking capacity in the cloud as simply and easily as you can spin up and manage servers and storage, a whole new vista of tantalising virtual possibilities opens up.
"In many ways, the missing piece until now has been the ability to use virtualisation to gain similar flexibility and agility benefits when it comes to network provision and management."