April 16, 2019

How to Build Secure Networks that are Both Agile and Customizable

In today’s world, the time it takes the enterprise to embrace and respond to an opportunity hinges on the agility of the IT infrastructure and the responsiveness of supporting processes and teams. Reaching the pinnacle of agility requires CIOs to overcome a long-standing paradox that lies at the crux of making globally dispersed networks nimbler and more dynamic.

The paradox problem: Why agility and customization must coexist

Traditionally, network agility and customization haven’t coexisted–enterprises either get one or the other. Some networks are initially customizable but offer no open-ended adaptability after the implementation. Others are easily modifiable but offer no way to deeply customize the system around the needs of each location, user group, and application. As a result, many IT leaders have been left to decide between the two lackluster options.

This might appear harmless on the surface because at least one element is flexible. But dig deeper and you’ll expose how this problem represses digital transformation and endangers the future of any enterprise. Even Gartner’s 2019 Magic Quadrant for Network Services, Global report touches on the issue, noting how “providers are increasingly reluctant to allow any deviation from the standard offering–as it will require the deployment of a fully custom solution at a much higher cost. In addition, such solutions will be in danger of rapidly becoming obsolete in this fast-moving market.”

IT agility is the new competitive edge

With today’s accelerated pace of innovation, every IT executive is tasked with staying ahead of the velocity of change. They must “build the ship” even as they command it across choppy, unknown waters, which calls for extreme versatility. When CIOs must continually adopt emerging technologies, they need to accommodate the new by reshaping their core. The ability to quickly modify ALL network parameters becomes a must-have for market competitiveness.

Why Enterprises Need Agility: Rigid, traditional networks are not virtualized and don’t integrate well–limiting performance visibility. Moreover, they can’t support unforeseen technological advancements, as well as a growing number of cloud applications, mobile users, and connected devices.

Why Enterprises Demand Customization: With a unique list of global locations, user groups, and a growing list of cloud applications (each with their own priorities) enterprises need tailor-made networks that conform to their needs.

Escaping the paradox enables digital evolution

Creating networks that are as transformative as today’s enterprises was once a tall order, but advanced technologies are now molding to the initial shape of organizations and then changing alongside it even as the organization responds to the world around it. Today’s modern networks are simultaneously both agile and customizable.

A bit like having your cake and eating it too, cloud applications, hybrid IT approaches, and advances in virtual and software-defined networking architectures collectively represent a new level of bidirectional flexibility. This makes IT infrastructure far better at continually supporting productivity and profitability even amidst unpredictable technological advances, unknowable cybersecurity threats, and environmental volatilities. Faced with a wider scope of options and more responsive processes, the IT organization is the primary beneficiary. Consider these as just a few examples of agility maturation and characteristics of flexible IT environments that are both agile and customizable:

Hybrid cloud deployment approaches and flexible licensing options easily pivot between on-premise technologies and fully hosted cloud applications, creating a phased approach to migration. This approach allows CIOs to customize a cloud migration path that directly aligns with their aging technologies and system retirement schedules and then modify that plan as needed moving forward.

Software-defined networks are making long and arduous change-management processes fall by the wayside. They abstract capabilities allowing for virtual provisioning, real-time transparency, instant programmability, centralized control, and flexible management models that easily accommodate self-service, fully managed services, and co-management. Moreover, these hyper-agile environments allow for a simple approach for network micro-segmentation–a growing need in the age of IoT and AI, which requires separate test environments where special security rules and policies can be applied to reduce risk.

Holistic technology suites are replacing the point solutions of yesterday, creating a single operational ecosystem where new cloud applications, AI-based technologies, and network and security services are all being synthesized together. Today’s application and service aggregation are signs that interoperability is no longer a barrier or distraction factor. Constellations of capabilities are all working together as a unified whole and being consumed and sold as such. The result is accelerated success that allows enterprises to compete in the digital age.

These heightened levels of responsiveness empower CIOs to better reconcile their ever-changing needs, balancing price, network performance, and reliability risk tolerance. And most importantly, executives can strike that balance again and again as they evolve on a digital transformation journey.

When networks are simultaneously agile and customizable, the positive impact isn’t just celebrated on day one–it’s an everlasting benefit.

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