Increasing business value of network with three simple steps

By: George Chacko, Principal Systems Engineer & Lead Technical Consultant, Brocade India

Innovative companies view the network as an asset, rather than an expense. They leverage its full benefits to enable new services, sources of revenue and ways to compete. While this sounds achievable in theory, getting started is a different story for many businesses.

Below are three things your business can do to realise this sometimes daunting, but vitally important, network revitalisation. These three steps will help set your network on a path of transformation, from being primarily about connectivity to one focused on revenue and innovation.

1. Reach for programmable fabrics
To meet today’s availability and networking performance demands, organisations require a network infrastructure that is self-healing and highly automated to minimize human involvement and related errors. It must be optimized for cloud computing and modern application architectures.

This can be delivered by programmable or otherwise self-defining fabrics, which provide high levels of automation and simplified management with the help of collapsed and flattened architecture. Programmable fabric networks deliver faster recovery times, implement network wide policies more efficiently, better automate provisioning, and provide easier management and troubleshooting.

Compared to three-tier topologies, fabric-based networks are more agile and less complex than traditional point-to-point networks. They can increase the speed to deploy new applications and services so integrating new channels, workflows, and engagement solutions is faster. Fabric networks also allow easy integration of new technologies, making them future-proof—skip the need for ripping out and replacing entire networks.

By selecting network fabric solutions, organisations can give back time to their IT teams, as well as add further efficiencies by introducing workflow automation that integrates their operations processes.

2. Embrace workflow automation
In order to stay competitive and grow, a business must optimize its processes to minimize inefficiencies, preserve resources and ultimately increase revenue. Most organisations feel constrained by the skills and resources they have available internally due to which automation is more important than ever. To achieve the best results, it is ideal to consider how to automate across IT domains, giving your teams automated steps for full operations lifecycle: end-to-end provisioning, validation, troubleshooting and repair rather than simply automating the network.

Lifecycle automation tools that are cross-domain and deployable out of box can help you achieve this. They shorten time to value and minimize the required skills to get started. Cross-domain means you not only automate the network, but also the operations across compute, storage, cloud, applications and more using workflows.

Lifecycle automation is the ability to go beyond just Day 0 provisioning to include validation, troubleshooting and remediation. Operations teams typically spend 80 to 90% of their day on these activities. While pre-built workflows let your team deploy quickly with confidence, once they become more experienced, open and customizable, automation tools will provide a greater level of flexibility to adapt and tailor to more specific needs.

Automated deployments and standardized production environments, key aspects of DevOps models of IT operations, make deployments predictable and free people from routine repetitive tasks to go do more creative things. DevOps will also enable your business to innovate faster, while quickly introducing new services and features requested by customers.

Organisations should consider software that is DevOps-inspired, cross-domain and thinks in terms of lifecycle when planning to automate their operations.

3. Drive your WANs with software

Increasing amounts of data are being transferred among data centers, cloud environments, branch offices and other remote locations, driven by data analytics, media traffic, storage demand and data backup. Software-defined WANs (SD-WANs) will be big enablers of this, with practical improvements to how they operate with your existing systems and their availability in a wide variety of packaged solutions and services.

SD-WAN can enable businesses to harness virtualization and reap the benefits not only of improved agility and cost. They do this by sorting traffic between two connections: your multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) service and an internet connection. SD-WAN can integrate with a cloud web content filtering service, too, and offer malware defences and botnet command-and-control intervention for every branch and remote devices.

If you’re planning to use SD-WAN in your network, reach out to your service providers to learn about their new services and capabilities. They also provide direct connections to many cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. With the right path selection and prioritisation, they may provide higher performance than doing it yourself with an over-the-top solution.

By following these steps, you will raise both the strategic and business value of your infrastructure. Your network will be on its way to becoming a growth engine for your business and a platform for innovation. As an added advantage, your employees will have more time to focus on what matters for your business.

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