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3 Reasons Why Networking Should Be at the Core of Your Digital Transformation

jenters

Networking isn’t getting anything like the attention it should be getting in the context of digital transformation. I wouldn’t say it’s ignored, exactly – but based on my conversations with customers, it’s taken for granted.

Companies heading down the transformation path often set up a dedicated organization, or at least a separate budget, for their DTX (digital transformation). And so things tend to be handled in somewhat of a siloed fashion. Networking pros may feel like what they’re hearing is: "Well, of course we need to update the network to support our new business models. But that's not part of our digital transformation budget, so you network guys go do whatever you need to do to make your stuff more awesome so that it can meet up with our digital transformation agenda.”

It’s completely understandable – management takes their view of it from the business lens for DTX, which usually focuses on things like applications, automation and compute consolidation. Most of the attention goes to identifying the applications that users rely on most and deciding where those workloads should be hosted and how they should be consumed, as well as updating their associated business processes. The problem is, there are specific network dependencies underlying these decisions, and they’re typically overlooked.

Understanding the network connectivity ramifications of your digital transformation is crucial to success, for at least three reasons:

You’ll want to do a lot more than just covering the basics.

Some important networking elements come up for discussion pretty much automatically. How many IPs are you going to need? What kind of load balancers will you use across multiple datacenters? But basic underlying network requirements like these are really just table stakes. When you embark on a broad digital transformation, you typically want to do some consolidation and/or optimization of networking elements. You want to have your applications not just layered on top of an archaic network architecture but integrated with a transformative network architecture – one that can align to your DTX objectives by providing programmability, automation and virtualization of network resources (i.e., decrease cost while increasing security and portability).

Maybe this is an opportunity to reinforce your DevOps capabilities by enabling your development teams to automatically self-provision resources. To do that, you need to have the network in lockstep. Even if it’s not DevOps, you’re likely moving towards a private cloud model where your applications are accessible from anywhere at any time – the network is key to ensuring an outstanding experience. Or maybe you’re planning to put an application in the public cloud; don’t forget the connectivity aspects of that. For example, it may result in some applications having their functionality split up among different locations, as I noted in my post Networking for your Right Mix: Architecting a communications fabric for hybrid cloud.

Think beyond the network to include connectivity. 

As an example, IP address management is often forgotten because people just assume that it’s straightforward. But it’s not. A surprisingly large proportion of enterprise organizations – I would say around 60+ percent, based on my experience – are still running their IP address management via spreadsheets. Let’s say you want to move to a containers environment as part of your digital transformation. The high volume and dynamic nature of containers requires an extensive amount of portable IPs. It’s hard to do that with manual data entry. While you can choose to provide ‘buckets’ of IPs to these environments, when (yes, I said ‘when’) you need to track one down for a security breach or compliance audit you’ll realize why centralized IP address management is key. Oh yeah, and don’t forget about any IPv6 initiatives.

Likewise, companies don't pay enough attention to DHCP or DNS. Once they’ve been set up, DNS management systems tend to just grow organically, without much control. The basic elements and best practices may be in place. But any weaknesses in your DNS services could create security and continuity vulnerabilities. Let’s be clear, if your DNS server goes down, your entire business will be offline. The same can apply to load balancers, firewalls, proxies, etc. – thus the need to consider end-to-end connectivity in a DTX.

Networking missteps can impact your timelines.

In any digital transformation, you're certainly going to be transforming and scaling your applications and workloads to levels you've never approached before – against very aggressive timelines. If you're not thinking about it from a network connectivity standpoint, missed critical path items can crop up that slow your progress or bring it to a standstill. It’s worth remembering, too, that digital transformations are commonly street-visible. Missed milestones can disappoint shareholder expectations and even impact stock price.

Defining the path towards an appropriate network architecture is a crucial part of your transformation to a digitally oriented organization that delivers the right resources, at speed, to customers and internal clients. HPE Pointnext Services can help you define it and build it. For example, we can run an in-depth network assessment that you can incorporate into your DTX planning up front. We’ve done networking for DTX programs many times before; we can bring a wealth of experience from working with companies around the world, in a variety of industries.

But don’t just take my word for it. A recent IDC MarketScape report positions HPE as a Leader in Worldwide Network Consulting Services – see below. You can read an excerpt from the report featuring HPE here: IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Network Consulting Services 2019 Vendor Assessment.

IDC assesment.png

 

SOURCE: "IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Network Consulting Services 2019 Vendor Assessment", by Leslie Rosenberg, July 2019, IDC # US44532219_HPE IDC MarketScape vendor analysis model is designed to provide an overview of the competitive fitness of ICT suppliers in a given market.  The research methodology utilizes a rigorous scoring methodology based on both qualitative and quantitative criteria that results in a single graphical illustration of each vendor’s position within a given market. The Capabilities score measures vendor product, go-to-market and business execution in the short-term. The Strategy score measures alignment of vendor strategies with customer requirements in a 3-5-year timeframe. Vendor market share is represented by the size of the circles. Vendor year-over-year growth rate relative to the given market is indicated by a plus, neutral or minus next to the vendor name.

Learn more about how HPE Digital Transformation Services helps you take your digital enterprise to the next level.

About the Author

jenters

Jeff Enters is the Global Chief Technologist for Networking in HPE Pointnext Services and has over 15 years of consulting experience in voice and data networking across all verticals. He has global responsibility for the network consulting services strategy, identifying best practices and developing multi-vendor solution architectures both in the data center and at the edge. In this role, he consults with Fortune 100 customers to deliver near and long-term value back to the business by developing strategies, integration roadmaps and designs that take a stepwise approach to integrating a broad spectrum of leading edge technologies in areas like digital transformation, mobile engagement, IoT, connectivity, security, and multi-cloud networking.

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