Is your network infrastructure really ready for digital transformation?

Digital transformation is a focus for business and IT leaders in Benelux this year as organizations look to become more agile and resilient. They are changing the way they work to satisfy an increasingly touchless economy – but the hurdle of network modernization is still a big one to overcome.

The Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT Priorities 2020 survey has found that organizations in Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg are driving forward with digital transformation projects this year. Alongside digital transformation (47%), two other areas on which IT leaders in Benelux expect spend to increase are network infrastructure modernization (45%) and cloud infrastructure deployment initiatives (44%).

As well as empowering digital transformation, the move to remote working is also putting pressure on networks, because users expect the same experience working remotely as in the office. This has rapidly moved network modernization up the boardroom agenda.

Digital transformation demands network modernization

Today, networks must meet the challenges of both multicloud and digital. They need to be extremely agile, incorporating centralized control so that changes can be made across the network in near real time to deal with the demands of digital business.

Legacy networks are just not up to the task. To realize the promise of digital transformation, enterprises need to look to automation, software-defined networks and enhanced security. It has taken a global health emergency, however, for many enterprises to realize the importance of the network as a workhorse and how it is intrinsically linked to the success of digital transformation projects.

Complex infrastructure

Digitization, however, is bringing with it the issue of more complex network infrastructures: multiple vendors with multiple solutions, many requiring different skill sets. At the same time, the attack surface has expanded, making them more difficult to secure.

As a result, managing the IT infrastructure has become a huge challenge, and it’s exacerbated as the number of applications and where they are sited and accessed grow. Previously, large enterprises may have had 1,000 applications housed in data centers. Now, there can be as many as 5,000 applications running inside and outside of the organization. Many of them are deployed without the knowledge of the IT department, as this has been made easier with cloud applications.

We can see that as enterprises adopt cloud and digital processes, IT operational management is becoming increasingly fragmented. This is why many enterprises are moving to software-defined networking infrastructures, drawn by the promise of centralized and simplified control of enterprise network management.

SDN brings with it agility, scalability, automation, enhanced visibility and more granular security, among other benefits. But the big plus is that it helps enterprises keep pace with fast-changing digital business demands, allowing the network perimeter to be extended to any device in any location.

This is just the beginning. The obvious extension to SDN is intent based networking (IBN), which exploits artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms to make networks smarter and end-to-end management easier and to boost performance. With enterprises looking to align their networks dynamically with their businesses, its little surprise that the IBN market is forecast to grow 30% between 2020 and 2026.

Steps to network transformation

Following the pandemic, enterprises are looking to drive down costs, but at the same time create a resilient infrastructure that adds real value to the business. But where to start? Change is inherently risky, and network transformation is no exception. Enterprises must have a detailed understanding of where they are today in terms of current services and usage to help plan for tomorrow.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and without a comprehensive baseline, enterprises can end up actually increasing network complexity and paying for services they don’t require.

This is where the value of an experienced service provider comes in. The provider can work with the enterprise to audit all the contracts, connections and applications on the network. As well as helping to tighten security, it will provide a foundation for accelerating infrastructure changes to support evolving business demands.

Changing infrastructures and processes also requires cultural change. Enterprises that forget the people element will fail to deliver lasting transformation. This is why at Orange Business, we put great emphasis on conducting innovation and change workshops. It engages business units in the transformation process and helps build a software-defined networking infrastructure that will meet their needs now and in the future.

A change in mindset

Moving to a software-defined, intent-based network is much more than technology shift. It requires a very different way of thinking: one that is agile, flexible and innovative. Choosing the right network migration partner can help you make these step changes to maximize business outcomes.

Frank Baggermans

Frank is Managing Director of Benelux and leads enterprise activities across Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. He studied commercial economics and marketing in Utrecht and has over 20 years of business and technology leadership experience. Frank is the proud father of two sons and, in his free time, he enjoys being with his family and friends, sailing, playing tennis, golfing and experiencing new sights.