The turn of the millennium brought with it a word, “digitalization,” that made businesses of all sizes – small, medium, and large – rushing to jump into the bandwagon. Digitalization chiefly meant discarding paper-based manual processes and moving to a digital platform where all data and processes are electronic. Ledgers became spreadsheets, and emails became the norm for communication.
The past decade, however, has spurred businesses to go beyond digitalization. With multiple companies offering the same service, customers are increasingly spoilt for choice. This fueled fierce competition in previously-monopolized markets, urging companies to rethink their entire strategy in order to stay ahead of the curve. The scenario called for a “transformation.” This resulted in a new warhead–Digital Transformation.
Digital transformation aims at placing the customer at the heart of a business’ strategies. It involves a complete operational overhaul; business processes have to be streamlined and expedited to achieve high-quality deliverables for the customer, fast. Digital transformation is characterized by two factors–quick, round-the-clock availability of services on all devices (web, mobile, tablets, etc.), and agility, that is, to be able to respond to changing requirements quickly. To make this possible, companies need to develop and host their services on platforms that support the above needs.
The answer here is cloud platforms. Players like AWS, Azure, etc., lease out a part of their server infrastructure to companies to host their applications, eliminating the investment in time and resources the company needs in setting up the hardware part of the environment. Cloud-based applications are responsive, and customers can access them from any device, either from the browser or as a downloaded app.
Provisioning and managing cloud devices in the network requires intricate orchestration. Before the cloud, the enterprise’s IT team may have manually configured and managed network devices, which wouldn’t have been too difficult if their numbers weren’t much. The cloud, however, comes with its own host of physical and mostly-virtual devices which need to be managed on top of the enterprises’ network. To accommodate cloud devices, the existing network may have to be re-engineered. From application delivery to upgrades, the network behaves differently at every instance
To top it off, enterprises that span multiple departments and domains usually go for multi-cloud environments rather than sticking to a single vendor to avoid vendor lock-ins. Multi-cloud environments entail an even more agile backend than a single-cloud environment, for obvious reasons. Also, enterprises that deal with sensitive client data, like those providing financial and healthcare services, usually opt for a private or public cloud where they can manage the network infrastructure themselves.
From the above analysis, we can arrive at the following surmise; to achieve digital transformation, enterprises need to at least partially move to the cloud, and to support an agile cloud environment, the enterprise’s network has to keep up and be just as agile. In short, to bring about a digital transformation, the network has to be transformed first.
Despite these impediments, with the right strategy and the right technology, even the most complicated, ungainly network can be made agile. The right strategy here is automation, and the right technology for it is low-code network orchestration tools. While low-code is being used extensively for application development, its utility in network automation is yet to be fully explored. Low-code network orchestration platforms render network automation a cakewalk by providing digital, drag-and-drop models of network devices (both physical and virtual), and multi-layered code abstraction. This enables network engineers to automate workflows involved in application delivery, patch deployment, and upgrades across devices in mere minutes, reducing manual drudgery and errors. They also integrate with the enterprise’s ITSM and help in setting up role-based access controls and approval workflows without having to code extensively.
These platforms offer complete visibility into the network infrastructure for network engineers to assess and analyze the performance of various network devices without having to log in to each module separately. Users can centrally monitor and manage all their devices and ensure ready availability and tight security. Network automation platforms are vendor-agnostic too; they provide a single-window of management for multi-cloud environments, meaning organizations do not need individual management platforms for every cloud system that they employ. Since network management is centralized and automated, security and compliance standards can be easily accomplished.
With the level of ease and flexibility that low-code platforms bring to network orchestration, networks can be made truly agile. This agility gives them the leeway to support digital transformation to its fullest potential, while guaranteeing security and ease of management.
Because what can be simplified, should be simplified.