Three market trends that are set to influence and shape channel opportunities throughout 2016
In today’s technology-driven, digital economy, it’s all about speed. Faced with exponential growth in mobile connectivity, social media, cloud computing and big data, reaction times for any organisation are critical. Inevitably, this new economic landscape continues to exert pressure on every company, forcing change on almost every level. And when confronted with disruption, it is no longer the biggest against the smallest but the fastest against the slowest.
There are three market trends that I believe are set to influence and shape channel opportunities throughout 2016:
Disruption will continue to force businesses to transform their datacentre network, while integrating and aligning IT resources with business strategy will become a priority.
The benefits of simplifying and automating the network will continue to drive adoption of SDN and NFV technology
Cloud deployment will accelerate in 2016 with the hybrid infrastructure model maximising datacentre investment
While any one of these trends can enable businesses to capitalise on the digital economy, I believe that things really get interesting when the network infrastructure is recognised as a critical, strategic asset and a growth engine. It’s about driving value into the business, rather than viewing IT as just overhead.
Business disruption will continue
The core capabilities of a data centre network built for the digital business can provide the means to adapt to rapidly changing market conditions and demands, in ‘cloud time’. In practical terms, by deploying changes quickly and smoothly and with fewer risks and lower costs, an intelligent network infrastructure provides the means to support business agility and deliver a rapid – almost instant – evolution of business processes, products and services.
Although identifying new value propositions and service models remain crucial for driving innovation, creating high-value business advantage from the network is the surest way to survive in the digital era. By ensuring the focus remains firmly on market strategies and user requirements, rather than just the infrastructure or technology, such platforms can become central to supporting business decisions with data-driven intelligence, underpinning operational priorities in support of the wider business goals.
SDN and NFV adoption
Another key trend is a datacentre infrastructure that ticks all the right boxes when it comes to building a rich service environment. Software-defined networking (SDN) enables resources to be provisioned, delivered, managed, torn down and reset by software alone. By leveraging software capabilities to automate networking functionality, SDN can overcome the complexity of traditional networks with an agile, application-centric network infrastructure that automatically adapts to reduce the time and risk of provisioning network resources.
Another key trend is Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) which decouples the services from specialised, network hardware and implements the same functions from software running on servers but using less costly, off-the-shelf devices. Virtualising a network’s resources provides an infrastructure which can rapidly build, adapt or evolve network services. Such in-built operational agility and flexibility ensures the network can always meet changing business needs and dynamic market conditions.
Although not dependent on each other, NFV and SDN are highly complementary. Combined on a software-defined infrastructure, the two application-centric technologies create an agile and responsive network that boasts built-in automation, flexibility and elasticity, without needing repeated CAPEX for hardware upgrades. Both technologies also represent solutions that meet genuine business challenges for delivering network platforms that enable business evolution, at speed.
While many businesses have made great strides in cloud migration, fuelled by the need for business agility, accelerated service delivery and simplified operations, my belief is that this will continue to accelerate. As the expansion of on-site network resources typically reach a physical or logical limit, cloud environments can open up significant advantages by providing much-needed network capacity from a dynamic, pay-as-you-go infrastructure, while reducing owned CPE and associated support costs.
Whether public, private or hybrid, cloud platforms represent an effective strategy to achieving business goals by delivering next generation services with built-in resilience, scalability and automated fulfilment of on-demand services. And a virtualised cloud environment also help organisations achieve greater IT efficiencies with a data centre network that adapts to customer needs, and service provisioning that can be rapidly deployed across multiple, geographically distributed sites or cloud environments.
Given the fast pace and scale of today’s digital services environment, all these trends represents a major opportunity for the channel to help transform business economics. Pushing network performance (and customer satisfaction) up, and watching as costs go down is only the beginning. By converting the network infrastructure into a growth engine and strategic asset, more than anything else it can help level the playing fields to help enterprises and service providers meet the next wave of business challenges.
Martin Hester is head of channels and alliances, EMEA, Juniper Networks