Playing the Networks Game Successfully with SD-WAN and NFV

In this digital era, no industry can do without a solid network proposition. Domestic network coverage is critical for software and media content companies such as OTT video-on-demand providers who are dependent on huge bandwidth for internet distribution to consumers. Low-latency network services are essential for the finance and banking sector, upon which delay-sensitive functions and applications such as high-speed financial trading run. At BT, we witness major telecom operators, supply chain companies and retailers in the region stepping up their networks game to navigate the complex web of government regimes, taxations and regulatory controls, in order to successfully deliver products and services as well as customer experiences online.

Closer to home, the majority of organizations in Singapore will become cloud-first by 2019, according to a “Cloud Computing Tipping Point” survey by ServiceNow. Enterprises increasingly recognize that a robust network infrastructure has a direct positive impact on business goals. However, as they grow their uptake of cloud computing tools and augment their resources with cloud platforms and applications, they tend to face difficulties in transitioning to networks that are more dynamic, flexible and compatible with hybrid clouds.

A majority of business leaders (89%) are less than “extremely confident” that their current wide-area network (WAN) architecture, roll out processes and management tools would be able to support their company’s future goals, according to a new survey “Software-Defined WANs: Answering the Demands of the Cloud-Based IT Ecosystem” by IDG Research and Nuage Networks. As large organizations based in Asia-Pacific rapidly increase their use of cloud services and seek to maximize the opportunities of their digital future, they have concerns about accessibility, face barriers in flexibility and agility, and do not have peace of mind about having the best degree of security.

Unless enterprises are able to implement WAN efficiently, they will struggle to sustain business growth in the long run. In today’s world “efficient” does not just mean cheap and reliable; increasingly, it is a network’s ability to adapt, to grow and to change shape that defines whether it is the right tool for the job. Enter software-defined networks (SDN), which include software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). These innovative dynamic network technologies are fast becoming the vital solution to simplifying the management and operation of the overall network.

With ongoing shifts and developments in technology capabilities, software is no longer constrained by the structure that delivers it and networks should not have these constraints either. In a world where users can get started on a cloud platform in minutes, we need technology that connects us securely to that cloud within seconds, making SDN key to building networks of the future. SDN is an enabler of innovation, allowing enterprises to develop new kinds of applications, services and business models, thereby creating new streams of revenue for the company.

Dynamic network services support businesses viably because they can be used on a per-consumption basis and can be deployed as a trial service first. This means enterprises can now manage technology investments in a more cost-effective way, taking the necessary time they need to get used to the idea and run projects, as opposed to making upfront heavy investment in technology. A new type of agility is unlocked because the resources required for short-term projects can be stood up on demand and then shut down when no longer required, with the associated spend stopping immediately.

These products also afford businesses plenty of flexibility – whether they need additional connectivity, acceleration, monitoring or cloud services, enterprises can consume these in the required period of time, start up and turn it back down quickly, and scale them however they want. Dynamic network services are more responsive, helping businesses to avoid white elephants in the operational infrastructure. CIOs can also take advantage of this flexibility to have their cost base track real levels of business activity and revenue generation, more closely than ever before.

The benefits extend across all industries and they work especially well for businesses in Asia-Pacific. In this region, it is important that enterprises have network services that help them to navigate the complex web of government regimes, taxations and regulatory controls that dictate and sometimes slow down the delivery of physical objects. As more dynamic software products and services are virtual, delivery is quicker and simpler over the network.

The results are clear: SDN is giving our customers unparalleled choice, security, resilience, service, and agility in the roll out of high performance networks designed for the age of the cloud. In Asia-Pacific, BT is witnessing a strong growth in the uptake of our dynamic network services offering. As more enterprises learn how to get rid of unwanted technology and realize the full magnitude and impact that SDN can bring to their organization, new areas of growth will be opened up for their businesses as well.

Matthew Allcoat is the Chief Architect at BT AMEA