Adrian Pickering, Vice President, Middle East and Africa, Juniper Networks, describes how businesses can be empowered by network innovations to compete in the fast-moving digital economy.
In today’s technology-driven digital economy, it’s all about speed. Faced with new customer engagement models spanning multiple channels and soaring market expectations, reaction times are critical. To succeed in the digitally-driven era, characterised by unrelenting market disruption, an organisation needs a new way of doing business where it can continually adapt to rapidly changing market conditions and demands.
While success is still driven by anticipating customer preferences and building competitive advantage, the transformation into a digital business is a journey many organisations in the Middle East have already begun, while others have yet to start. Such a journey will require some new thinking, new ideas and perhaps even a new way of looking at IT infrastructure.
Across the digital landscape, many organisations aren’t just under threat, they risk becoming irrelevant. As new technologies, innovative services and evolving business models gain momentum, radically disrupting the structure of competition, established organisations need to ensure they continually deliver market-leading, customer value.
For management, the challenges across the business and social landscape are huge and wide-reaching. As the digital economy continues to exert pressure on every business, forcing change on almost every level, innovative ways are needed to keep pace and benefit from the economic transformations taking place. Creating business advantage typically requires improving or re-engineering processes and services but if there’s a new commercial imperative, it’s recognising that disruption will not only continue, it is likely to accelerate.
Building a customer experience model that delivers the greatest value is a start. With the ever-increasing rate of innovation sweeping businesses along, many are already reshaping and re-positioning themselves, while evaluating what it means to bring positive change, or ‘creative disruption’, to their organisation and market.
While only part of a complex picture, defining an IT infrastructure and the network platform needed to deliver genuine value will identify the most successful business. And by ensuring the focus remains firmly on the market strategy, rather than just the technology, such a platform can become central to supporting business decisions with data-driven intelligence underpinning commercial priorities in support of wider business goals.
With the increasingly data-intensive world, for a business to be able to integrate and process the sheer volume and velocity of data, IT infrastructures must be able to scale, perform tasks faster – and seamlessly – and just as importantly, anticipate and adapt to change. With many progressive businesses in the process of re-inventing themselves, it’s important to ensure the network infrastructure provides a route towards having a technology platform that’s only as complex as absolutely necessary. By deploying changes quickly and smoothly, with fewer risks and lower costs, an intelligent network infrastructure can provide not just business agility but the rapid – almost instant – evolution of business processes, products and services.
Against a background of growth in mobile devices, cloud, big data and social business, Middle East organisations are increasingly looking to develop their network capabilities to keep up with the new computing requirements of the digital economy.
For those companies with long-standing roots in the region and who haven’t benefitted from ‘leap-frogging’ legacy solutions, introduced when the region was in its infancy, software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) represent potential game changers for supporting business transformation.
SDN is a new approach to managing infrastructure and helps overcome network complexity. By leveraging software capabilities to automate key networking functions, it creates an agile network infrastructure which can rapidly adapt to reduce the time and risk of introducing or modifying new services and applications. It also lets everyone concentrate on the core business of the organisation, by delivering a network infrastructure which adapts to dynamic service requirements, rather than adapting the service to the network.
NFV is another key technology and emulates network functions that are typically performed by standalone, physical devices and implements them in a software environment instead. To meet changing business needs and market conditions, the virtualisation of each hardware function enables the network to quickly build, adapt or evolve network services. It also means having greater operational agility and flexibility built-in by running a network that doesn’t solely rely on managing a range of specialised, network devices. As a complementary technology to SDN, virtualisation has a great many benefits in its own right, yet when adding SDN’s ability to automate and manage network resource lifecycles, the benefits are multiplied.
Inevitably, overlapping generations of network technology can add layer upon layer of complexity. By helping bridge the gap between new and legacy resources, SDN not only simplifies network administration but ensures the IT platform can expand with the business – vital in the region where new business centres are emerging and leading countries like the UAE continue their investment in a diverse range of sectors to support economic growth.
Moving to a hybrid infrastructure – a blend of virtual and physical devices – is one solution that provides complete freedom of choice to evolve and scale at a pace with changing needs, while protecting existing IT investment. Equally, the adoption of open standards architecture simplifies network evolution by providing a choice of best-of-breed solutions from across a wide community, with the means to add new technologies or development environments as soon as they are available.
CO-LOCATION AND CLOUD
For most organisations, network resources within in-house data centres will continue to expand and can often reach a physical limit. Outsourcing opens up significant advantages for organisations by providing not just much-needed network capacity, but built-in resilience, accelerated provisioning and, increasingly, a route to web-driven service connectivity. As a tried and trusted outsourcing model, co-location benefits those organisations looking to reduce their IT infrastructure and support services so they can instead focus on creating value propositions for their customers.
Together with the advantages of a managed, automated network, co-location can provide the capabilities needed for a digital business, and a route to cloud-based service adoption. Whether public, private or hybrid, cloud hosting represents a cost-effective way of achieving business goals by delivering services on a dynamic, pay-as-you-go, infrastructure. Without owning any network resources, cloud migration provides organisations with a cost-effective, secure data centre network that can scale quickly, with service provisioning that can be rapidly spread across multiple, geographically distributed sites or cloud environments.
For the digital economy, virtualisation and the software-defined infrastructure represent two emerging IT solutions that meet genuine business challenges, with both delivering sustainable, agile network platforms that enable business evolution, at speed.
In a world of instant communication and sky-high customer expectations, many business models continue to be turned on their head or simply cease to exist. Today, there are significant challenges ahead as economic and technological pressure continues to disrupt those businesses unprepared for change. With the price of oil plummeting to record lows of late, the introduction of V.A.T. in parts of the G.C.C., and fears growing that Dubai is on the cusp of a second property crash, the Middle East is preparing for a new chapter in its economy.
It is, therefore, crucial that new value propositions and service models are implemented to drive innovation, supporting local businesses in what could be a pivotal year for the region.
The first step is to create an open and flexible infrastructure, with a network-centric approach that views the IT platform as an asset, not a cost. For organisations in the Middle East to bring new ideas to life quickly, and connect people, devices, and ‘things’, harnessing the built-in value and performance of an intelligent, automated data centre network is central to helping keep the region’s businesses at the forefront of the digitally-driven economy.