The Evolution of Data Centre Networking

The role of IT is fundamentally changing from a cost-efficient enablement technology to a more strategic element of the enterprise. For companies born before the digital era, IT is a key player on their path to digital transformation; for more recent businesses designed with technology at their core, IT represents a foundational pillar on top of which everything else is built.

With this shifting role, IT’s long emphasis on TCO is being eclipsed by a new-found focus on security and automation. Whether it’s the continuous risks posed by a dynamic threat landscape, the threat of digital disruption or an inability to keep pace with the latest trends, virtually every enterprise needs to be more agile. And, with the continued evolution of compute, storage, and applications, networks have been exposed as a bottleneck to change.

Put simply, enterprise IT is more critical than ever. The network itself represents both a risk and an opportunity as IT leaders plot out their evolutionary paths. A recent PwC survey* of enterprise IT leaders, reveals some interesting insights about their top priorities for data centre networking solutions:

1. Security is more than just a CISO consideration

Unsurprisingly, security tops the list of priorities. The industry is rattled by a constant barrage of breaches and attacks increasing in both frequency and impact. Security is now a board-level discussion. It’s not just security teams that consider effective defence a top priority; networking leaders consider security the top priority for their data centre networking strategies. This signals an all-hands-on-deck mentality.

What this means: there are two major implications – firstly, the network must play an active role in surfacing threat intelligence. This puts a greater emphasis on streaming telemetry and integration with threat monitoring solutions. Secondly, the network must help isolate threats, using dynamic policy enforcement to quarantine bad actors.

2. Automation has overtaken TCO as a priority

Automation has overtaken TCO as a primary driver for enterprise IT, which suggests that future benchmarks for data centre networking will be more about IT’s ability to keep pace than to contain costs. If the network interferes with digital transformation and new service delivery, then CIOs and their networking teams will find corporate life more difficult.

What this means: leaders must recognise that increasing automation to realise more agile IT, will require more than an investment in new technology. Enterprise change management will need to adapt as networks move from IT Infrastructure Libraries to more agile processes. This will trigger a need to educate personnel so they are proficient across heterogeneous environments that make greater use of integrated tools and automated workflows.

3. Cloud is here and now

Cloud will be the context against which all of these changes play out. Companies will not simply retool their existing environments to create a more secure, automated network; enterprises not already in the cloud will have to move some or most of their workloads to public or private clouds over the next few years. This movement to cloud is happening across all major classes of workloads, from customer service to broader business applications.

What this means: for security and automation, the move to the cloud requires both the current state of IT and the likely hybrid and multi-cloud future state be considered. While solutions might be deployed narrowly to start with, they will eventually need to be extended to service multi-domain environments in future.

Operating Within Constraints

While the survey indicates security and automation to be top data centre networking priorities, this doesn’t mean IT leaders can operate without constraints. TCO still ranks highly as a priority for CIOs and VPs of IT. Enterprise networks are expected to support their company’s security and automation objectives without driving costs to unaffordable levels; carefully and cost-effectively navigating the transition from legacy to multi-cloud technologies.

Navigating Change

Enterprises must adapt both to keep pace with technological changes and to respond to increasingly difficult outside factors. Whether it’s the rise of professional hackers or the threat of digital disruption, IT needs to be faster and nimbler.

This transition will be difficult but uncertain times create opportunities. Successful IT leaders will need to shift how they design, build, and maintain their data centre networks by:

  • Embracing hybrid cloud architectures while preparing for the inevitable multi-cloud future
  • Adopting a pervasive security posture that leverages the network as the foundation for detection and prevention
  • Leveraging automation and SDN as cost-effective ways to provide dynamic network control

The challenges are not purely technical, and won’t be solved by simply deploying new hardware and software. Successfully migrating from where IT is today to where it needs to be tomorrow requires a journey. And it’s that journey – not merely the networks – that requires architecting. We partner with Juniper Networks to provide automated, scalable and secure network solutions that offer agility, performance and value.

* PwC Enterprise Data Centre Survey, 2017.

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‘The Evolution of Data Centre Networking’ taken from Juniper Networks ‘Enterprise Cloud: The Changing Nature of Data Centre Networking’ whitepaper.

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