Now more than ever, business success can be tied directly to the underlying performance of an organization’s technology infrastructure. And nowhere is that infrastructure more important than in the computer networks that connect employees, customers and partners with the information and access they need. Simply put: If the network isn’t performing well, the business isn’t performing well.
With that said, it’s obvious businesses can’t afford to be constrained by their networks: The data explosion continues, and more employees and customers are working remotely and need to be productive regardless of where they are located. Businesses are looking toward next-generation networks to become more streamlined and cost efficient in deploying their technology solutions, while also supporting the transition to third platform initiatives including cloud computing, big data, enhanced mobility, social networking and the Internet of Things.
But what does the next-generation network look like?
The shifts in network design are taking shape in two primary technological innovations driving next-generation network architectures:
- Ethernet fabrics, which provide a flattened network architecture that helps organizations address the performance challenges that affect Ethernet networks in virtualized environments.
- Software-defined networking, which provides a new way of building and designing networks whereby the management functions are separated from the basic networking functions, making networks more open, scalable and simpler to deploy and manage.
Every organization that is selling, buying or building networks should be aware of the impact that these two interrelated technologies are having on network deployments and design. And, as a VAR, it’s important to understand how these meet the end users’ needs:
- Improved network performance, particularly the elimination of bottlenecks and latency
- Reduced costs and increased agility through an automated and streamlined approach to managing networks
- Support for open environments to avoid vendor lock-in, support for more customer choice and the ability to leverage existing infrastructure
- Ability to manage the network end to end, from the data center to remote branches and across campus environments
- A network architecture and design that provide a roadmap for the future—that is, the growth of cloud services and support for increased mobility, big data analytics, social networking and other important IT/business trends
In addressing the challenges that are currently facing organizations by building and designing next-generation networks, solutions providers will typically talk with a broad range of individuals within their customers and prospects, spanning every vertical market. It’s important to remember that, these days, you’re not just meeting with the CIO of these companies; you’re working with everyone in the line of business, and you need to be able to speak their language. A hospital’s needs, for example, are different than a financial institution’s. The more you can adapt to an organization’s specific network needs, the more valuable you will be to the end user.
Let’s take a deeper look and the different people VARs will be working with in the transition to next-generation networks.
- IT buyers: The network designers and administrators are the individuals most aware of the performance challenges of Ethernet networks in virtualized environments. They are also the ones who have to deal with the hassles and details involved in manual network provisioning and management. It is crucial to receive their support in positioning the value of Ethernet fabrics and SDN, since they will be the hands-on implementers.
- Business buyers: Individuals at the highest levels in the IT organization, as well as key business leaders, will be critical to the deployment of next-generation networks. They have to sign off on the budgets, of course, but it’s more than that: The network has become strategic to many of an organization’s mission-critical initiatives, and its importance is only growing as mobility and big data analytics become more integrated into overall business strategies. Therefore, network growth and performance have to be treated as an important investment in the future of the business, bringing in decision making from an organization’s top executives.
As IT infrastructures continue to evolve in the direction of virtualization and cloud computing, it is critically important that networks are modernized to address emerging challenges in performance, resiliency, reliability and agility. IT leaders and decision makers will increasingly be relying upon their solutions providers to guide them in the right direction with important technology innovations such as Ethernet fabrics and software-defined networks. Solutions providers must be comfortable talking about the business benefits of next-generation networks, and not just about the technologies.