Today’s digital economy mandates a digital business strategy for processes, products, customer relationships and innovation as I wrote about in the first blog post in this series. This requires a suite of digital technologies including big data and analytics, cybersecurity, mobile endpoints such as user devices and connected things, and an emerging set of compute and storage infrastructures such as private clouds, public clouds, hybrid clouds, multiclouds, fog and edge. To connect and integrate all these elements, it is essential to have an overarching orchestration and application and infrastructure management strategy and a foundational network architecture, with end-to-end security.

Connecting the Enterprise

Because cloud architectures vary based on business and technology requirements and constraints, workload profiles, applications, and digital strategies within and across different enterprises as I wrote about in the second blog post of this three-part series, so do the network architectures supporting them. Some smaller and/or pure-play enterprises can utilize a simplified approach such as running most or all applications in a single public cloud, but for larger enterprises to unleash the business benefits of hybrid and multicloud strategies and appropriately balance cost, risk and security will require a more complex, heterogeneous network architecture.

For example, to connect one enterprise data center to another might best be done over an enterprise WAN such as MPLS. To connect one enterprise to another enterprise within a supply chain or virtual corporation might best be done over the internet, via private interconnection, or through a cross-domain virtual network. To connect an enterprise data center to a colocation facility to mirror data for business continuity reasons might best be done through an optical network supporting native storage protocols.

To take snapshots of that data or for uploading objects such as movies or documents to store in the public cloud might best be done over “direct” connections to one or more public cloud providers.

And, to connect a more consolidated, centralized cloud layer to a dispersed fog, edge, and endpoints for latency reduction or data sovereignty concerns might best be done over the Internet and/or mobile networks.

Agility Fuels Digital Transformation

Moreover, as enterprises undergo digital transformation and compete in a world of aggressive rivals, business agility through organization, culture, application development methods and infrastructure agility are more essential than ever before. Such agility includes the cloud resource layer—for example, the ability to spin up application instances to handle demand spikes—as well as the network layer—for example, the ability to dynamically increase bandwidth to and load balance traffic to those instances or bring up new global sites such as new branches or pop-up stores quickly.

In addition, data acquisition and aggregation from endpoints such as smartphones and smart things is growing exponentially, due to both the growth in the number of endpoints and the growth in their capability to acquire or receive data. This growth in conjunction with initiatives such as analytics / AI / cognitive / machine learning / deep learning further drives requirements for network architecture and capacity flexibility, underscoring the importance of software-defined networking within the data center and across the WAN.

In many cases, these choices are a matter of cost optimization and bottom-line results because IT budgets seem to be never large enough to address all the initiatives that could and should be conducted. Increasingly, however, as IT has moved out of the back office to become customer facing, these choices drive customer value and customer experience. For example, latency, throughput, and reliability have always been important in cloud-centered applications such as social media, ecommerce, messaging, and collaboration.

But today, as all the elements of consumer lifestyles and business operations become smart, digital, and connected, network capabilities have become increasingly important—consider a connected scale or home video security device, connected autonomous vehicles, or a flexible manufacturing cell. Moreover, video applications such as entertainment and surveillance are projected to grow to be 82 percent of consumer Internet traffic by 2021, so additional network quality-of-service and performance characteristics such as jitter and packet loss can be key, also tipping the scales between private and public network approaches.

While networks enable today’s business strategies, they also are potentially vectors for cyberattacks, perhaps making cybersecurity one of the most important considerations, especially as the cost, ease, and scale of such attacks has evolved.

In short, today’s global economy offers limitless opportunities for business success, enabled by digital. The key to unlocking these benefits is exploiting technologies such as cloud computing in all its flavors: private, public, hybrid and multicloud and utilizing a variety of networking strategies to balance a variety of criteria such as security, performance, latency and cost.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about CenturyLink’s security capabilities, visit this page or contact your CenturyLink account representative.