Cisco's Lead for Enterprise Networks David Goff discusses how automation can drive productivity
“Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run, it is almost everything,” th...
David Goff, Lead for Enterprise Networks, Cisco UK and Ireland
“Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run, it is almost everything,” the famous quote of Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize-winning economist. Despite these words being over 20 years old, they are just as (if not even more) applicable today. For some productivity is a challenge, for others it is a golden opportunity ready to be unlocked. Regardless of your perspective, it is top of the agenda for businesses and countries alike.
Today, there are a number of variables hampering productivity, these range from skills shortages and infrastructure issues to finance availability and a lack of investment in innovation, which all have a detrimental impact on increasing output. There’s no silver bullet answer to productivity, but accelerating the adoption of digital technology has a significant role to play.
As counterintuitive as it sounds, we need to stop thinking that working harder will solve our productivity challenges. It’s a classic papering over the cracks approach which isn’t sustainable in the long term. The UK collectively for too long has been reliant on working more hours; that can’t go on forever. Eventually, you run out of people and hours in the day and ultimately, ‘hours worked’ becomes the denominator. Instead, we must start embracing the power of technology and start working smarter.
This is not about how we transform digital industries; it’s how we make all industries more productive. In only a decade we’ve seen an unprecedented change in the way that we use technology. Today, in this high-speed era of digital transformation, business structures, processes and models are being reimagined and ultimately digitized. For such transformations to be effective, digital can’t be a bolt-on or afterthought it must sit at an organizations’ core, which is why having a digital ready network is fundamental to every organizations’ success.
The network is no longer just providing the plumbing for businesses, it is driving innovation and in turn fuelling productivity. IDC reports that companies that have invested in modern network capabilities are experiencing 2-3 times the rate of growth in revenue, customer retention and profit. They have also deployed twice as many digital transformation initiatives compared to companies with legacy networks.
Today, billions of new destinations are joining the network. Add mobile technologies, the cloud and security threats that deliver new ways to operate, innovate and experience life, and the network has become unsustainably complex. The network, as we know it, is simply not able to keep up with, let alone stay ahead of this digital pace of change. Today, the network can no longer be manual, hardware-centric and static, it must be automated, software-driven and dynamic.
Network automation is fast becoming a requirement for ever-more complex enterprise networks. Specifically, it allows for manual tasks to be automated, existing network services to be better operated, increases in efficiency and quality, reduced downtime and uncovering hidden problems in the network. But accumulatively it allows organizations to transform into digital entities to capture the exponential opportunities that the connection of people, processes, data and things bring.
Despite its vast benefits, IDC reports that only 20% of organizations have aligned their network strategy to their digital strategy. However, more encouragingly, over the next two years, 49% organizations in EMEAR expect to achieve digital-ready network capabilities. That represents four times the current adoption rates. Ultimately, business leaders must view the network as the central nervous system of their organization, driving productivity and helping to ensure they remain competitive over the next five years.
In this post-fact world, Paul Krugman’s words undoubtedly still ring true. Productivity as an issue won’t go away or be solved, but there are numerous steps which can be taken to improve it. The role of digital technology is rapidly shifting, from being a driver of marginal efficiency to an enabler of fundamental innovation and fuelling productivity.
Much like the construction principles of creating a future-proof building on robust and enduring foundations, organizations striving to flourish as digital business must have an intelligent and automated network that dynamically responds to their needs and empowers employees at digital speed.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”