How to deal with the impact of digital transformation on networks

How to deal with the impact of digital transformation on networks

To unleash the promise of digital transformation, businesses need to embrace automation and software-defined networking as well as improve security.

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Achieving a higher level of agility will likely require a refresh of the infrastructure if the network is more than five years old, and that means adopting SDN. Traditional infrastructure had an integrated control and data plane, so changes had to be made on a box-by-box basis. This is why networks took so long to configure and lacked agility.

With an SDN model, the control plane is separated from the data plane, centralizing control so network engineers define a change and push it out across the entire network at once.

Older equipment isn’t designed to be software-first, so look for infrastructure that is built on a modernized operating system like Linux and that can be programmed using current languages such as Python and Ruby. 

Learn the APIs on networking gear

As the network moves to software, it needs to take on software characteristics. One of these is exposed APIs that let the network talk directly to applications, which can create a higher level of automation. For example, a videoconferencing application could signal to the network to reserve bandwidth while a call is taking place and then remove the reserve when the call ends.

Network engineers should seek out infrastructure with a rich set of APIs and, importantly, learn the necessary skills to take advantage of them. Most network engineers have never made an API call and have relied on home-grown scripts. It’s critical to learn modern software skills in order to leverage the simplicity and speed of APIs.

Intrinsic security

Rather than being implemented as an overlay, intrinsic security is tightly coupled with the network. With this type of security, the network itself acts as a security platform that incorporates a broad ecosystem of best-of-breed tools that can deliver integrated and automated compliance checks, threat detection, and mitigation. Intrinsic security protects networks from the moment a new device is onboarded until its session is terminated.

While the network will never take the place of a next-generation firewall, there is a tremendous amount of security that the network can provide. Because network infrastructure sees all traffic flows, it can gather enough data to determine when traffic deviates from the norm, which could indicate a breach.

For example, if an IoT device communicates with the same cloud service daily and then one day tries to interface with an accounting server, that could signal a malicious intrusion. A network with intrinsic security could quarantine the device and direct a security tool to further diagnose the issue.

Refresh for success

Success in the digital world requires investment in many new technologies, all of which are highly dependent on the network. Networks currently in place were never designed for the rigors of digital business, and they need to be refreshed but also operated and managed differently. Businesses willing to invest in the network and re-train engineers will maximize their success with digital transformation. Those that don’t will struggle because application performance and user experience will suffer, and the likelihood of a breaches will grow exponentially.

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