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Building Networks for the New Digital Age

Todd Schoeman, BT Client Business Director in South Africa

As the likes of artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) integrate into business operations, companies are becoming more reliant than ever on the cloud. With multi and hybrid cloud solutions, cloud security, and resilience among the top cloud computing trends for 2024, the focus shifts to how the infrastructure is keeping up with demand.

A 2021 Virtana report found that 72% of enterprises who shifted applications to the cloud have moved at least one app back to an on-premises environment. A central theme of the research was that decision-makers at the time required greater observability into application behaviours and public cloud costs, amongst others, before embarking on a cloud migration. Today, there is now a greater focus on first ensuring there are robust capabilities to manage different public and private clouds across the business using a consistent set of services.

This has contributed to the adoption of a hybrid model which combines public clouds, private clouds, and on-premises resources. This provides organisations with a more flexible way of embracing advanced technologies while still maintaining legacy environments in which significant investments have already been made.

Keep adapting

Regardless of the environment chosen, modern networks must be enablers of innovation and not just conduits of data. Being able to access a global, cloud-centric core network specifically designed for a multi-cloud world has become a business imperative.

Such a network infrastructure can deliver a variety of business use cases. On the financial services side, it facilitates critical apps which must remain on-premises while delivering the flexibility to provide digital banking solutions to customers regardless of geographic location. In retail, this could mean adapting to the changing dynamics of online and physical stores to ensure operational efficiencies are maintained.

Security priority

One of the less discussed, yet critical, aspects of this are security and resilience. As the cloud becomes more complex and nuanced, so does its security landscape. The rise of multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments have made the traditional perimeter-based security model obsolete. There is now an increased focus on zero-trust security models, where trust is never assumed and must always be verified.

Companies are not just looking at how to prevent attacks but also at how to maintain operations during disruptions and recover quickly afterward. This requires a holistic approach to infrastructure operations that can adapt in agile ways to disruptions on both hardware and software levels.

Modularity

The ideal network for the digital age must therefore allow for a more modular and automated approach when it comes to catering for traffic. Such a network creates the ability to add multiple services over a single access and port, flexing bandwidth services as required, while still opting for pay-as-you-use commercial cloud models. One such example is our newly launched Global Fabric network which represents a generational shift in technology, based on a network-as-a-service (NaaS) technical and commercial model, underpinning futureproofed networks.

Think of the modern, digital network as an environment that delivers software defined control, being able to dynamically change services or bandwidth, and avoiding vendor lock-in. Networks are no longer the rigid, physical, and limited environments of the past. Instead, they are becoming more fluid and continually evolving ecosystems.

With businesses now reliant on different types of cloud, whether AWS, Google Cloud, Azure, and others, to software-as-a-service applications and even private clouds in their own data centres, flexibility must be the building block of any modern network. Given how edge computing continues to proliferate, the ‘new’ network infrastructure must enable the creation of small clouds at remote sites to do localised processing of IoT data.

Ultimately, to achieve the best application performance while optimising operating costs, organisations need to consider the routes that their digital workloads are taking. Moving between clouds, devices, and remote environments requires a level of adaptability that is not found in more traditional network environments. Instead, the focus shifts to leveraging more powerful and advanced networking technologies that provides organisations with an infrastructure platform able to adapt to modern business requirements.