Survey reveals desire and constraints of enterprise network modernization

There’s broad recognition among enterprises of the need for network modernization, but many decision-makers are constrained by the prospect of capital equipment outlays, proving a solid return on investment, or fear of being locked into a proprietary solution. Those are key findings in a soon to be published survey conducted by IDG Research Services.

One third of IT decision-makers think it’s highly likely their organizations will modernize their network connectivity strategies over the next year and another 46 percent indicate there’s some likelihood. Today, virtually every enterprise places a premium on flexibility and agility, and few are willing to commit to long-term, costly outlays for network technology that can’t adapt to their future needs.

Capital outlays and fear stall decisions

According to 46 percent of survey participants, the biggest barrier to network modernization is the initial capital outlay. Additionally, 39 percent indicate it’s difficult to defend or prove ROI and 31 percent fear getting locked in. Most of those in the survey say they would find value in the ability to offload the chores of installing, configuring, and running network hardware to a vendor.

Organizations are supporting a variety of technologies and services with their network connectivity strategies, including disaster recovery, cloud computing and meeting the needs of an increasingly dispersed and remote workforce. The resulting growing demand for bandwidth is driving organizations to look at new networking solutions.

Reliance on MPLS

More than two-thirds of survey participants with large companies (1,000 employees are more) are using carrier-based Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) services. With an ability to support multiple protocols and to direct traffic more speedily from point to point, such as between data centers and major office hubs, MPLS has been a preferred option for knitting together enterprise virtual private networks (VPNs) over wide area networks (WANs).

In recent years, reports of the death of MPLS have been, as Mark Twain once famously said, greatly exaggerated. Common  myths about the potential of software-defined WANs (SD-WANs) likely has played a role in analysis paralysis over network modernization. But we’ve been moving toward software defined networking (SDN) for more than 20 years and MPLS has been evolving with that trend.

Taking the pain out of CPE

The knock on MPLS has been that despite its reliability, it required expensive, proprietary customer premise equipment (CPE) to be deployed at the customer site. That equipment traditionally needed to be physically replaced or upgraded, which is often a slow, painful and expensive proposition – exactly opposite of the needs of the agile enterprise.

With SDN enabling centralized management of updates, combined with network function virtualization (NFV), it’s now possible to supplant closed-box CPE devices with off-the-shelf white box, or what AT&T calls Universal CPE, devices that can be upgraded and repurposed with software on the fly.

With SDN and NFV, MPLS becomes the foundation of a true hybrid VPN environment that provides organizations with an elastic capability to interoperate MPLS and IPsec VPNs in the most effective, cost-efficient manner possible. With uCPE devices on premise, the future of networking opens up the potential for network app stores where enterprises can shop for software-based networking features as needed, when needed – what AT&T refers to as Network Functions on Demand (NFoD). For more insights and though leadership papers at http://resources.att.com/ip-networking or go to https://www.business.att.com for more AT&T solutions or call us at: 877-542-8666.

This story, "Survey reveals desire and constraints of enterprise network modernization" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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