Software Driven Edges to Power Digital Transformation

By Caroline Jacquet posted 09-30-2019 23:57


In a world of unprecedented disruption and market turbulence combined with growth aspirations, business transformation becomes inevitable to unlock new opportunities. To drive growth and deliver better efficiencies, most enterprises have embarked on this journey of digital transformation to 'Navigate their Next’. We are witnessing a massive change in the application ecosystem owing to this new wave of digital. It is changing from traditional in house to cloud based, analytics powered and is integrated with cutting edge technologies like Mobile and IOT.  

Businesses of today want to extend the digital reach everywhere, in a secure and reliable way. The aspiration of “reach anywhere” is driving Enterprise IT to move away from a static, fixed topology and often manually configured traditional network infrastructure, to be on the lookout for an alternative solution which is more aligned to business intent. As part of this enormous digital transformation exercise, Network Infrastructure takes center stage as it directly impacts the reach, and user experience. A robust, flexible and agile network infrastructure is key to roll out new age applications seamlessly across the globe to a diversified group of users, often mobile, and enhance end user experience.
Challenges with Edge infrastructure of today 

The current edges are set up with Traditional WAN solutions. The Traditional WAN solutions are designed in a hub and spoke model to transport traffic from office/remote branch locations to the enterprise datacenters where all applications are hosted.  The Traditional wide area networks present challenges to the digital transformation initiatives in all three dimensions: Cost, Speed and Performance. They are:
  • Less flexible and agile to facilitate a new application roll out with a single click or quickly reprioritize an application traffic with changed business priority. In other words, the ability to automate is low
  • Time consuming with Provisioning and configuration of remote sites/branch offices and connecting them into MPLS WAN taking anywhere between week(s) to month(s)
  • Highly sub optimal as it needs to route every application traffic the same way as they are spread across multiple SaaS/PaaS/IaaS cloud providers, and on premise datacenters
  • Recurring bandwidth cost claims a big chunk of IT budget for maintaining enterprise WAN
Hence to support digital transformation, it is imperative that we rethink WAN edge. The edges and branches should be smarter, intelligent and centrally managed and powered by automation in order to deliver speed and agility. Criticality of business applications should dynamically determine the priority of network resources, network path selection and network policies in a highly adaptive way. Complexity of handling data traffic routing across multiple transport options (MPLS/ broadband internet/4G etc.) to multiple destinations like SaaS providers, Public IaaS/PaaS cloud or Private cloud and ensure robust network security at every ingress and egress points, should all be handled in a transparent automated way.  

The SDWAN solution to challenges  

Software Defined WAN has emerged as a key solution to transform traditional fixed topology WAN network, primarily MPLS, to an application aware, agile, secured network which can be provisioned, orchestrated and managed from a central console. It leverages software defined WAN overlay to implement a transport independent, policy - based routing. SDWAN as a standalone solution does provide enterprises some critical benefits –
  • Faster implementation time compared to traditional fixed topology MPLS WAN
  • Application based dynamic routing to ensure optimum network patch selection for each application
  • Cost reduction by bundling multiple transport options while enhancing reliability, performance and experience
  • Reduction of WAN administration and management effort as the solution is orchestrated, automated and managed centrally
Desired Enterprise approach for SDWAN solution 

One of the common pitfalls while considering SDWAN is to limit it to a WAN link aggregation and management solution. Instead, Enterprises should consider a smart strategy to design a WAN edge which provides a unified network functionality of SD WAN, security and WAN optimization and combine it with a software driven LAN/WLAN solution for remote locations. New age LAN/WLAN solution which are centrally orchestrated and often cloud based, provides faster implementation, greater visibility thereby providing agility.  

Enterprises have a unique opportunity to build a software defined architecture which can provision, orchestrate and manage end to end WAN edge infrastructure at scale, from a single control pane. They can also leverage advance machine learning and AI capabilities, to make it highly adaptive to dynamic application traffic pattern. Unified management console which provides granular visibility into application traffic flows, health and performance along with capability to push business intent driven network policies across the infrastructure in a single click, can bring unprecedented operational simplicity and efficiency. 

In summary, enterprises should consider following key design principles to build the next generation intelligent network to connect mobile workforce and branch locations and enhance end user experience.
  1. Enterprises should leverage new age software driven / cloud-based LAN/WLAN solution to build network infrastructure at edge and combine it with SD WAN, security and WAN optimization solution
  2. Network architecture should be transport independent, application aware, policy based and adaptive. Network policies should be clearly linked with business intent
  3. Security is of paramount importance for a distributed network architecture and must be an integral part of the solution, rather than being an external add on
  4. Management console, preferably a single pane of glass, should provide deep visibility and analytics into network infrastructure and traffic and take advantage of machine learning and AI.
  5. End to to end automation and orchestration in WAN edge are key to bring agility, operational simplicity, efficiency and cost reduction in network infrastructure, align it with business intent and power digital transformation. This will transform the edges to smarter and provide an intelligent infrastructure.
We hope you will join us during HitachiNEXT when we will share the digital solutions that we offer together with Hitachi Vantara.

This is a sponsored blog by Pandi, VP of Delivery Head for Cloud, Infrastructure & Security Services (Manufacturing) at Infosys Limited.