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Designing networks for the digital era: Dispelling eight common myths about networking in the digital era


Johannesburg, 06 Feb 2024
Networks are the foundations on which modern businesses run.
Networks are the foundations on which modern businesses run.

While it’s true that organisations that wish to thrive in the digital era must effectively modernise their networks by planning a transformation map that navigates network complexity, there are some myths around this journey that are misleading and counterproductive to organisational progress. Here, Prashil Gareeb, vice-president at NTT Data, dispels eight networking myths and provides insight into use case scenarios based on industry research gathered from hundreds of clients.

Myth 1: The ratio of infrastructure hardware and software will remain the same.

Myth dispelled: Software is gaining focus and importance.

Software-defined networking is on the rise. While hardware remains a critical platform on which software runs, key features in areas such as networks, security, operations, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) can now be enabled by software. Software-defined networking should be a top priority for organisations over the next two years as it can:

  • Support transformation and increase agility by enabling frequent updates and rapid provisioning.
  • Supporting almost instantaneous roll-outs, at scale, to hundreds or thousands of users

It’s important to remember that enterprise agreements must be put in place when separating hardware from software as new financial models such as subscription services may emerge. It’s crucial to understand and mitigate the challenges that come with these models.

Myth 2: The network is a less important element of modern IT infrastructure.

The myth dispelled: The network remains a critical component.

Networks are the foundations on which modern businesses run, which is why it’s one of the reasons it’s seen as the most critical element of any IT infrastructure. Without a network there can be no collaboration or globalisation, and in turn, no business success.

Network transformation is crucial in three key areas:

  1. Technology: to upgrade technology to keep pace with advancements and deliver better performance.
  2. Operational: to improve capabilities through automation, machine learning and applied AI.
  3. Financial: to procure and manage infrastructure in a way that cuts costs.

Myth 3: All security is moving to the cloud.

The myth dispelled: Security is needed on-premises, in the cloud and in-between.

Not all critical intellectual property (IP) and business data is hosted in the cloud, which is why it must still be protected. Hybrid and remote ways of working must allow for protection of off-site devices and locations. In an agile world, there are also complexities around potential attack services so security must be integrated across many layers: on-premises, remote, endpoint devices and cloud.

A zero-trust approach builds an end-to-end security methodology by reducing the attack surface and limiting access to only those who need it.

Myth 4: AIOps will take over the operations of your infrastructure.

The myth dispelled: AIOps plays a role in supporting IT teams, not replacing them.

AI, although opening up vast infrastructure improvement potential, doesn’t have the ability to self-drive infrastructure and should not have complete control over the network and security environments. While there is a role for AI in network operations support, the need for human involvement by those who have an understanding of relevant processes and who can apply their specific skills and logic to any situation cannot be understated.

Myth 5: Networks aren’t important to hybrid work models.

The myth dispelled: Networks are the key to providing consistent, high-quality experiences across locations.

As more and more organisations move to remote or hybrid workforces, network performance is pivotal to delivering the highest experience for employees and customers.

Network features that enhance ways of working include:

  • Wayfinding
  • Location services
  • Robust high-definition video
  • Sophisticated collaboration tools
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Capacity management

To provide the same high quality employee and customer experience, no matter where the employee sits, requires seamless collaboration across locations and can only be achieved with a superbly architected network.

Myth 6: IT infrastructure is part of the sustainability problem, not the solution.

The myth dispelled: Infrastructure plays a huge role in supporting sustainability initiatives.

Networks are increasingly being used in new and innovative ways to support sustainability, particularly in smart buildings. Some of these include, among others:

  • LED lights and other low-voltage components powered by the network to reduce cabling and enable more efficient power usage.
  • Cameras and sensors to monitor temperature and occupancy, adjusting conditions to save resources.
  • Intelligent devices to detect water levels under roads, spot wildfires when they start and register tsunami threats.

In these, and many other cases, the network plays a critical role in connecting the IOT devices and sensors to enable systems to take the appropriate actions.

Myth 7: WiFi is dead, and 5G will be used for all connectivity use cases.

The myth dispelled: WiFi and 5G each play an important role in connectivity.

WiFi has been used for decades and 5G should not be seen as a WiFi replacement. Instead, network designers should consider how WiFi and 5G can work alongside each other to allow for seamless service within the network. To determine the best option, organisations should consider use cases along with connectivity requirements and, as complexity increases, it could even become a case of managing multiple networks to drive performance.

Myth 8: Technology skills are abundantly available.

The myth dispelled: Technology skill gaps continue to grow and affect organisations.

It’s predicted that IT skills shortages will affect 90% of organisations by 2025, resulting in USD 6.5 trillion in lost business. It’s crucial that IT teams understand that there are different levels of technology skills and that gaps in fundamentals are severely impacting the industry. The technology industry needs to focus on talent, from developing the skills of internal staff to assisting with training programmes for students. This is especially pertinent with the rise of AI, machine learning, automation and programmable infrastructure.

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