Compared to the rapid pace of cloud and mobile innovation, networking innovation hasn’t happened in years. Companies and analysts alike agree that the network of the past is not built for today’s demands. It doesn’t drive the competitive edge businesses need to stay relevant in our cloud-centric world.
“Networking missed out on the evolution to high-level programming,” says David Cheriton, founder of and chief scientist for Apstra, in MIT Technology Review. “We’re still programming networks like we did in the ‘60s.”
Sadly, Cheriton is right. The same issues that existed for IT leaders and admins 15 years ago still exist today. Today’s network is:
- Inflexible: Unlike its technology brethren in cloud and end-user computing, spinning up networking resources or adding new branches takes weeks of work—if not months or years.
- Complex: It’s like a twisted game of Tetris: Solving the puzzle gets harder and harder as people demand faster access on multiple devices and in multiple locations.
- Unreliable: Dynamic Markets’ network research reported that 80 percent of companies report losses due to network downtime.
- Lacking agility: Network managers must configure devices and fix problems manually, which means your people resources focus on fixes, not on innovation.
- Insecure: Security is bolted on outside the networking infrastructure, leaving a wide attack surface for malicious actors to capitalize on the gaps.
Fortunately, new networking innovations not only solve the above challenges, but also bring networking into the modern era of technology innovation.
Here are three networking innovations that make up what analysts and technology leaders call virtual cloud networking.
1. The New Architecture: Delivering a Networking Fabric
We know that the fastest way from A to B is a straight line. Unfortunately, because of years of tinker toy-esque networking infrastructure, A to Z to Q to R to B is often how users access apps and data. If the path is broken or not connected at the edge, the end user is out of luck—and the networking team gets the blame. Thankfully, businesses can finally achieve that straight-line efficiency through our first network innovation: the networking fabric.
Virtual cloud networking makes that streamlined A-to-B connectivity possible. The software-based networking fabric lies over the entire system. This enables IT to seamlessly connect users to data and apps wherever they reside—data center, cloud, branch and edge.
Scalability is built in, helping IT immediately (and automatically) weave in new connections within the fabric to support evolving operational needs. In other words, no more tinker toys.
2. Closed Loop Intent-Based Networking Innovations
Andrew Lerner, Vice President in Gartner Research, defines intent-based networking as:
“A piece of networking software that helps to plan, design and implement/operate networks that can improve network availability and agility.”
MIT Technology Review showed us the major differences between today’s networking and next-gen closed loop intent-based networking innovations:
Policies in virtual cloud networking help enable closed loop intent-based networking. Here’s the value for your business and for your IT team:
- Provides full visibility of all components across private and public clouds, and virtual and physical environments.
- Helps IT see the pulse of the network through real-time analytics and, most importantly, actionable intelligence.
- Resolves IT ops’ long-fought challenges with connecting users to the right data on the right device in the right location.
- Makes IT smarter and faster by automating common, time-consuming tasks like maintenance. Smarter, faster IT means you can use IT resources for innovation, not troubleshooting fixes and problems.
3. Pervasive Security Built into the Network
One of the biggest innovations within networking in software is that security is embedded, not bolted on. What does that mean?
Most organizations have added security layers upon security layers on over the years (back to the tinker-toy analogy). By building security into the network, you’re moving from defending the perimeter against a swarm of attackers to establishing what expert Tom Corn calls a homecourt advantage.
“You know your house better than an attacker. If you focus on understanding the applications and data and … create a least-privilege model around it, you get rid of an enormous amount of the attack surface. It’s the one thing you can do where you have an advantage,” Corn says.
Virtual cloud networking builds pervasive security into the networking fabric. By compartmentalizing data and end-user permissions, like locked rooms within a house, you deliver what Corn calls a least-privilege model. Built-in security also helps IT encrypt in-flight data as it travels from cloud to data center to branch to edge device. And with a homecourt advantage, you can automatically detect and respond to real security threats—not false alarms, like Joe Employee logging in from an airport.
Networking Innovations: Time to Sharpen Your Edge
Finally, virtual cloud networking innovations solve problems IT and businesses have struggled with for too many years. From intrinsic security to seamless connectivity, a Virtual Cloud Network supports businesses in the modern, cloud-connected world. To survive the ever-increasing pace of tech innovation, you need to rethink your networking architecture strategy. In other words, it’s past time to sharpen your competitive edge.