Digital transformation is something almost every business is going through. The term has become synonymous for the constant innovation that has become a necessity to remain competitive and profitable. But all this change comes at a cost. Businesses must be prepared to manage a vast array of IT projects and experiments -- without even knowing if they will be successful in driving business growth.
In order to answer this challenge, organizations require a more fluid and agile approach to IT infrastructure. Disruptive new entrants have no legacy IT structures to manage and can scale their businesses up or down almost at will. But for everyone else, from the retailer trialing pop-up stores to the manufacturer experimenting with as-a-service business models, IT is often a brake on innovation. Each new venture requires painstaking work to recode devices, reconfigure services, coordinate service providers and activate networks. By the time this has been done, more nimble competitors are miles ahead.
Software-defined networking (SDN) enables organizations to virtualize and automate their network operations, which is why there has been an accelerated take-up of SDN solutions in the past few years. Research by Verizon, which surveyed 165 senior IT leaders from around the world, found almost nine in ten (87%) said SDN technologies will enable them to deploy new applications, services and infrastructure more rapidly.
Agile methodologies have transformed how tech companies build and release new products. (Image: Rawpixel, Unsplash)
Simplification is key
The drivers for change are both technical and practical. As organizations migrate more and more of their IT infrastructure to cloud solutions, whether public or private, and add ever greater numbers of devices and applications to their networks, SDN provides a means with which to simplify the management of this complex ecosystem with a more centralized and automated system of control. Above all, it is possible to push policies and reconfigurations out to all devices in the network simultaneously, rather than having to physically visit each site.
The simplicity and control that SDN offers enables businesses to move towards targeted outcomes much more rapidly than might have been possible in the past. As the network function is virtualized, new services can be "spun" up or down as the business need dictates, trialing innovation and then implementing change across a business or moving on to the next project according to the results.
It's hard to understate the importance of this agility. In the new world, speed to market is everything. The disruptors and innovators now threatening to take market share are quick-paced and nimble because they are built on flexible IT infrastructure designed from the start to support growth through experimentation. They well understand that many incumbents do not have the ability to scale up or down at pace and in many different directions.
SDN technologies provide a means with which to counter this threat. They offer even the largest organization the ability to manage secure and efficient networks and, ultimately, to deliver the world-class experience their customers now demand.
This is going to become ever more crucial as the millennial generation -- and its successors -- come to dominate the global economy. Customers will expect to be able to do business across any channel at any time, and to have their needs catered for instantly and personally.
This on-demand culture is difficult to manage even for the most agile organizations, but if a business is struggling with legacy IT structures, meeting the challenge is even tougher. It will simply take too long to pivot and flex to customers' needs, resulting in them going elsewhere.
Many organizations recognize that SDN is fast becoming a crucial enabler of innovation, as businesses look for new sources of growth in the evolving marketplace. Network virtualization drives speed and flexibility, but also enables the management of change without jeopardizing security and resilience -- while staying in control of the cost of transformation.
SDN's benefits make cloud computing more efficient and easier to manage. (Image: John Adams, Unsplash)
Speed is of the essence
Clearly there are huge gains to be made for businesses that innovate effectively, and SDN can help to accelerate this process while minimizing the cost of failure and maximizing potential gains. This will be partially driven by the insight they gain from trial and error made 'economical' through the use of SDN. The key for many businesses will be early adoption, as those who choose to be 'first movers' will gain a significant edge over both start-ups and more established organizations.
— Oliver Cantor, Associate Director of Product Strategy, Verizon