Raise your eyes from the screen for a moment and look at the light switch on the wall. Can’t get much simpler than that device. One moving part. Every child knows how to use it. And it’s rare that it doesn’t work.
It’s easy to forget the network of wires behind that switch, connecting it to other switches, the light fixture and ultimately to the power plant that produces the electricity that makes it all possible. As long as they are up and running, networks can be taken for granted precisely because they seem to “just work.”
But the job of modernizing IT cannot be complete without a serious evaluation and evolution of the network in light of new technologies ranging from NFV to SD-WAN that now finally enable the network to become more closely aligned with business goals, cloud strategies and digital initiatives. That evaluation, though, must be geared toward something beyond the traditional equipment purchase cycle: evaluate, qualify, deploy, depreciate, replace. Here are four things to think about beyond the technology itself.
Think holistically about your needs: As a new technology like SD-WAN gathers momentum in the marketplace, it’s easy to get bogged down evaluating the bits and bytes versus other choices. Step back from the alphabet soup of technologies and look at what your business actually needs from the network. If you’re like many decentralized organizations you likely have a growing broadband Internet component to your network as employees use SaaS applications as well as those in your data center or any in a hosted environment. You need to map where your people are, where your applications are, how the people connect to those applications and then project that map into the future based on business trends. Modern networks enable the business, not just route data.
Assess your internal capabiliites and what you really want your IT and network pros doing: Unless you are the rare IT or network manager whose headcount is unlimited, assessing the skills and expertise you have internally, the skills and expertise you really need internally and what gaps you can easily fill by partnering is part of modernizing your network. How many people do you have just keeping the network up? What more strategic function would you rather they were doing? How much expertise and hands-on experience does your internal staff have in the new networking technologies? Managed services can make network reliability a matter of a Service Level Agreement (SLA) rather than a crisis when you’re shortstaffed.
Adopt a pragmatic view of what a “modern” network is: We can all think of attributes we want in our networks: secure, resilient, fast and other performance characteristics. But, when we think of modernizing a network, we should also consider the business implications of the enterprise’s backbone. It should be “turnkey.” It should be easily scaled. You shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time provisioning or managing, securing and maintaining separate, non-integrated networks and transport types, like MPLS and local internet access. Anything that can be integrated and automated should be. SD-WAN can take you a long way toward that goal but SD-WAN delivered as a managed service can get you there faster and with better service levels.
Partner to get the best, most effective solution: You can’t do everything today, nor does it make sense to. Partners can help you reduce the risk of new technology deployment, and can even provide complete, end-to-end WAN/hybrid WAN solutions as a service, giving you the ability to retain control and transparency to make changes to the WAN at any time as business needs change. By obtaining complete WAN solutions as a service, IT and network managers can return to thinking of a network that “just works” and still take advantage of all the innovation going on in the space.
When you flip the switch, you don’t have to think about how the lights come on. You just know they do. Flip the switch on your modern network.
Are you ready to transform your network to meet ongoing customer and market demand? Talk to a CenturyLink IT expert today.
This article was originally published in Forbes Voice.