10 Trends Affecting Digital Infrastructure & Operations: Network Agility

Network agility is often defined as the speed at which networks can adapt to changes while still maintaining a high level of security, management simplicity, and resiliency. Although agile software development conceptually is often easy to grasp, taking those same metrics to a network to increase agility can seem a little more complex. Much of what makes modern network agility accessible for Infrastructure and Operations accessible for organizations is a focus on artificial intelligence, analytics, intent-based networking, and advanced automation concepts.  

By 2020, many experts project at least a 50% increase in the number of enterprises that invest in automation deployment in the access layer. Whether Infrastructure and Operations leaders realize it yet or not, the expanded infrastructures that have evolved from simple architectures now reflect complex compute estates. Now, a new problem has made itself known and the modern network still is not agile enough to meet customer requirements for cloud adoption and improved speeds. Unfortunately, this means that many network teams are unable to respond quickly and have moved to survival mode. To bring back improved network agility, the following categories must be met: 

  • Network Automation – Perhaps the most important part of improving network agility, network automation can be used to improve efficiency and overall performance. Overall improvements can often be made by implementing intelligent data flow mechanisms that use network telemetry data, AI and health probes to analyze application data paths and determine the most efficient for each data flow. 
  • Network Visibility – Maintaining long-term network agility requires proper levels of visibility into networks based on data flows. Deep data insight through analytics can help provide a granular view of end-to-end operational health while also allowing network architects to better understand what happens when changes to network flows are changed, added to, or disrupted. 
  • Speed and Scalability – When focusing on deployment, speed and scalability are key areas that must be addressed to improve network agility. Automation can be used to create and deploy network templates that have been pre-defined with a few clicks. This results in virtual network appliances and functions that have uniform policies throughout public cloud networks and private LAN. 
  • Information Security – No network is capable of being “agile” without underlying security processes that are streamlined and robust. Developing multiple layers of network security can often be a burden for organizations; however, modern processes and tools can help eliminate time sinks by implementing centralized control, access management and software-defined segmentation. Intelligent identification and automated security policies may also help with the enforcement of identified user devices. 

Modern business has changed and requires more collaboration than ever before to be successful. Inevitably, this change has led to more sharing and synching in digital landscapes while still expecting real-time performance wherever collaborators may be globally. In addition to these advancements, IoT devices and the migration of complex workloads to the cloud are now being demanded by modern businesses while still requesting local access, edge solutions. To accommodate this, a new network automation strategy must be made since the existing option are not designed to scale. 

To improve network agility, I&O leaders must create an automation strategy that is complemented with analytics. By combining automation with detailed insight that is designed to drive any underpinning networks to service digital. This unique shift has led to a new market for intent-based networking systems (IBNSs) to provide enhanced automation and the orchestration of multiple new network services that modern businesses are demanding. And, although intent-based networking is still emerging, it could be the next big trend in networking since it can provide improved network agility and availability; two key factors when transitioning a business to digital.  

Although networking teams have been shrinking, leaders in Infrastructure and Operations must consider the skills used by other teams that focus on innovation, like in applications or cloud network engineering, and find ways to shift their team in the right direction to make positive impacts. In addition to this strategy, the culture and behaviors of existing teams must be addressed with a focus on building business relationships. All modern automation strategies must be made from a foundation where leaders understand the system and user behaviors. When behaviors start changing positively, the people who are contributing should be rewarded to encourage further growth.