Maximising the hybrid network opportunity
The rise in digital infrastructure to support the huge amounts of data flowing across networks has led us to the Third Industrial Revolution. Today, companies of all shapes and sizes are being affected by this digital movement better known as digital transformation. According to IDC, while 89% of organisations have plans to adopt a digital-first business strategy, only 44% have fully implemented this approach.
Central to any digital transformation strategy is the network i.e. the nervous system for the entire organisation. Employing an agile, secure and reliable network is key to achieving a connected enterprise model, which seamlessly brings together people, processes and devices – no matter where they are. Getting the fundamental platform right simplifies the road to digital transformation. The ideal path to reach this goal is through hybrid networking – the convergence of on premises IT, private and public cloud services.
Hybrid networking is not a question of ‘either/or’
Positioned as a new approach to enterprise computing, hybrid networking is a comprehensive process that evaluates business requirements for specific IT workloads, applications and data to determine the optimal networks, whether cloud, enterprise or both. A hybrid network environment affords businesses five critical benefits:
- Automate access to cloud services
Businesses need to be able to deploy cloud resources quickly and efficiently. Previously when employees wanted to use additional IT resources, they would use hardware and software from a centralised IT department. Now employees can head straight to the cloud for what they need speedily, going outside the constraint of limited IT budgets and resources.
For the simplest cloud applications, all it takes is an empowered business user to open an account and start working. Other cloud applications operate through open APIs, many of which can be accessed by an IT professional embedded within the business. Complex applications still require comprehensive implementation support; but even these types of applications are becoming increasingly turnkey.
- Retain low-cost workflows on-premises
Often, it makes perfect sense to retain relatively static workflows on low-cost, on-premises data centres using commodity hardware. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The hybrid approach allows IT departments to keep their focus on innovation, without having to spend time migrating low-value applications to the cloud for minimal benefit.
- Integrate IT workloads into a single security perimeter
IT workloads running in separate environments rely on different routing strategies, IP addressing schemes, quality-of-service guarantees and security protocols. However, to achieve optimum performance of workloads, while ensuring security and reliability, a tight integration between the infrastructure provider and the network provider is required.
By incorporating cloud workflows into the same security framework as on-premises workflows, enterprises can better protect themselves against vulnerabilities and breaches. It’s also easier to demonstrate compliance to regulators and auditors when there’s a single and consistent framework with overriding security.
- Reduce IT spending
Historically, physical infrastructure for networking services such as network-based security and DDoS mitigation required significant capital expenditures, along with ongoing operating expenses. These deployments also come with costly management overheads for the physical procurement, installation and integration of the devices, as well as a complex project management and operational energy over extended timelines. Given the time and effort required, this approach was hardly agile enough to keep up with the speed of cloud within the data centre.
Today, enterprise networks are becoming much more dynamic and there is an increasing willingness to give the green light to new cloud-based initiatives. Leading network providers are extending the on-demand nature of cloud purchasing to include network-based services. Businesses can add features on-demand, without needing to purchase and install dedicated appliances.
- Free up IT innovation
Streamlined access to cloud-based resources can help the IT department deliver higher-value solutions to the business, taking advantage of the incredible innovation happening with services available on cloud platforms.
The smart choice is to find a partner with expertise in the fundamentals of hybrid network design as well as experience in implementation and management in the hybrid enterprise. With this support, the heavy lifting is removed, freeing up IT departments resources to innovate. This enables them to ultimately become better strategic partners to the businesses and customers they support.
Digital transformation is a daunting prospect for many enterprises, but it’s important to remember it is not a single point in time – it’s a journey. It’s not impossible to achieve if the proper steps have been taken – and by adopting a single, powerful hybrid network, modern enterprises are one step closer to taking greater control of their existing IT systems. The benefits are obvious and help with planning is out there too.
Julia Fraser, Vice President Sales, UK & Ireland, CenturyLink
Future-tech and IXAfrica: Full Life Cycle Expertise
Future-tech is unique among data centre consultancies for a number of reasons. Not only does the Reading-based firm have high levels of expertise in markets ranging from Helsinki to Johannesburg, but Future-tech offers services across the complete life cycle of a facility.
“We are involved with projects from the initiation to completion,” explains James Wilman, Future-tech’s CEO. “We go from initiation phase - which could mean the site selection process or technical due diligence for a merger or acquisition - all the way through establishing the brief, the various design stages, construction oversight, commissioning, operation, end of life cycle replenishment, and can start right back at the beginning with refurbishment.”
While some factors, like the facility requirements for major tenants, remain the same no matter where you are, Wilman explains that “it's the environmental conditions, construction methodologies, supply chain, and skill sets available in different locations that vary, and that makes this a very interesting job.”
Future-tech was selected by IXAfrica as the life cycle design strategic partner for its hyperscale campus project in Nairobi, Kenya. Wilman explains that, over the past year, Future-tech has been leveraging its strong local knowledge, working closely with Kenyan architects and engineers, and collaborating with both Guy Wilner and Clement Martineau, to help IXAfrica successfully deliver Kenya’s largest hyperscale data centre.
“Future-tech did its first project on the African continent in 2012 in Kenya. I've been involved in the data centre space there for a long time, and have known Guy for a number of years through projects and interaction in Europe,” says Wilman. “As the IXAfrica project came into being, Guy and I spoke about it as he knew that we were already quite familiar with the area. We assisted out with the initial planning and project design, and the relationship really grew from there.”
Wilman adds that the experience helping Future-tech support the IXAfrica project has been hard-won. “It's been a steep learning curve, figuring out how to work in Africa. Some of our earlier projects were quite challenging, but we're fortunate to be at a point now where working throughout the region feels really comfortable,” he explains. “One of the things about Nairobi - which we found out when we were working on our first project in the city back in 2012 - is that, because it's about 1,200 metres above sea level, the altitude actually de-rates the onsite equipment. Having your equipment perform less well because of the altitude can massively impact the whole facility.” Understanding the factors that define a local environment can be the difference between success and disaster for a data centre, and Future-tech’s extensive experience in Kenya is a key supporting factor for IXAfrica’s success in Nairobi.
Wilman has also developed a strong collaborative relationship with Guy and Clement. “We've got over a gigawatt of design projects going through our office at the moment with different clients, which means that we're always learning new things. What is refreshing about working with Guy and Clement is that when we bring them a new idea, they listen to us,” says Wilman. “We've had a good run in Nairobi with IXAfrica built off of a long relationship, and I hope we get to continue working with them on their future projects.”