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The Software-Driven Network: The Foundation for Transformation

Few change initiatives facing companies today are bigger than the shift to digital business.

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Few change initiatives facing companies today are bigger than the shift to digital business. Now consider that only 30% of change programs succeed, according to a McKinsey & Company report. And if you’re the CIO, the chances are good that your company is looking at you to lead the effort.

So how can CIOs make the leap from transactional to transformational and ensure the success of future digital business endeavors? Most have already established a foothold in the cloud. But they are held back by yesterday’s networking technology that functions as an inhibitor for major IT projects, rather than the accelerator that companies need.

The path to digital transformation

An IDC Digital Network Readiness Study finds that two-thirds of surveyed organizations are stuck at step two on a five-step path to digital transformation. A prime factor in that lagging effort is networks have not kept pace with the changes racing through other parts of the IT infrastructure. 

“Virtualization has changed the way enterprises deploy server and storage resources, but the technology's effect on networking, at least until now, has been less significant,” writes TechTarget’s Paul Korzeniowski. “As a result, network bottlenecks continue to be a challenge in hybrid cloud deployments, where enterprises need to connect and orchestrate workloads between private and public clouds.”

Software-defined network (SDN) technology is needed to provide the foundation for—and help accelerate—digital transformation. The ability to securely and smoothly connect just about anything to just about anything else is vital in a world of mega IT projects – cloud migrations, mobile solutions, IoT rollouts, and an ever-widening cybersecurity threat landscape.  

“A network that is truly digital-ready is a network that can dynamically align with the ever-changing needs of the enterprise, including new business relationships, technology innovations, applications, devices, services, threats, disruptions, regulations, environmental factors, and market influence,” the IDC report asserts.

Automation and insights

With an SDN, CIOs can simplify operations by automating policies and gaining insights from all the data flowing through the network. This will enable smarter, faster decisions and drive new customer experiences. Other benefits include:

   -   Accelerating digital business initiatives

   -   Addressing business opportunities

   -   Reducing risk by detecting and mitigating threats more rapidly, including  detecting threats in encrypted traffic

   -   Becoming more cost-effective and efficient

“The new network is a fully integrated, single system that is both intelligent and highly secure,” Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins wrote recently, introducing the company’s intent-based networking concept. “Businesses can trust that the network is constantly learning and evolving to detect issues before they happen, while providing actionable insights to resolve them on its own.”

A network infrastructure that is intuitive and predictive, rather than transactional, is essential for companies that want to move further up IDC’s transformational path. Without that change, CIOs are going to have a tough time living up to expectations and making the move from transactional to transformational themselves.