Legacy networks are often the root of common issues when managing networking operations. These challenges include increased security concerns as outdated architectures and programming increase the risk of attack, while failing performance due to ageing hardware creates limitations in terms of management options. Historically, the lack of innovative new technologies available on the market has also led to businesses continuing with sub-optimal network performance. This has resulted in an environment ripe for disruption from open standards based networking, where hardware and software are decoupled and the use of open source software provides additional flexibility. Whilst many businesses are exploring these options and beginning to address their networking issues, the adoption of software defined networking (SDN) and virtualization to enable smarter, faster networks is still very slow.
The initial signs of disruption within the enterprise networking sector are now well established, as businesses are visibly switching to automated processing, but this may not be enough. While larger organisations are leading the way, many smaller enterprises are struggling to implement these new technologies, with the cost of available networking solutions regularly cited as one of the key barriers.
In addition, according to IDC and Dell’s recent Networks That Deliver Change whitepaper, management in smaller companies tends to regard technology expenditures simply as a cost centre and often fails to identify the strategic, enabling role of the IT department. This has a pronounced effect on the adoption of new technologies, with up to 34 percent* of business leaders waiting for solutions to be proven in the market before embarking upon an implementation of their own. As a result – despite virtualization having firmly established itself in mainstream business applications – the networking side can be seen to be lagging behind core operations.
This is not the only problem however, as IDC has identified a potentially greater issue surrounding the lack of understanding and experience in implementing and managing SDN within enterprise environments. The study revealed that of the responding organisations, only a fifth* had practical experience with SDN and of those, only one percent actually use the platform extensively. This reflects part of a broader industry issue, where organisations lack enough skilled and certified staff to manage modern network infrastructures, creating additional barriers to adopting new technologies. What this means is that businesses are in considerable danger of missing out on the strategic benefits offered by emerging networking solutions. This can, in turn, prevent the realisation of significant increases to the bottom line performance and therefore exposes a potential weakness in today’s competitive marketplace.
There is still hope, as many businesses can compensate for having fewer qualified virtualization engineers by sharing this limited skill set across each division of its IT team, spanning the server, storage and networking teams. The data from the study indicated that a significant proportion of businesses keep their networking teams separate from their server and storage teams – where a considerable amount of the existing experience around virtualization implementation and management lies. By bringing the networking and wider operations teams together, it’s possible to increase the overall expertise and management capability of each department, compensating for the lack of certification specifically contained within the networking team. Whilst the businesses themselves can resolve this by moving away from a “siloed” approach, there remains an additional stumbling block relating to the usage of fragmented management tools and independent operational practices, as outlined in the IDC whitepaper.
According to the data only three percent of participants indicated that they used integrated end-to-end service management suites for IT infrastructure, DC networks and campus networks. This hinders the realisation of automation within networking management and creates additional obstacles for network engineers and IT professionals.
This is where vendors must begin to take responsibility. Only by working alongside partners and customers can they bolster the capabilities of enterprise networks. By providing advanced services and encouraging integrated systems management, vendors can accelerate the adoption of advanced networking technologies, allowing for increased automation and the establishment of future ready networking infrastructure.