Network is integral to the future of hybrid infrastructure solutions, but many companies are just coming to terms with the back-end complexity of how the latest networking technologies figure into the performance, reliability, scalability and visibility of their entire footprint.
“When you introduce hybrid into the mix—and we all see that it is a trend that is accelerating—it’s just making the network more complex. And that’s the area where most enterprises have a skills gap,” said Jennifer Curry, INAP’s SVP, Product & Technology, at this month’s Hosting and Cloud Transformation Summit (HCTS), hosted by 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Curry discussed this topic and more on a panel entitled “The Future of Datacenter Networking and Interconnection” during week one of the event.
Networking Needs and Customer Perceptions
During the presentation and panel, hosts Craig Matsumoto and Mike Fratto, both 451 Research senior research analysists, shared how customers are looking for direct connection to public cloud and interconnection from their colocation providers. Furthermore, interconnection services were deemed as a high-priority ask for colocation clients in the context of COVID-19.
While there is a need for a strong network, enterprise understanding in this area is often lacking. Curry noted that interconnection and network design are the foundation of a successful hybrid environment, but it is easy for people to not think about network, as it is often bundled with a solution from a provider. Behind those solutions, however, network engineers are working hard to make everything work as it should, creating a skills gap in this area within the enterprise.
Despite this gap, recognition that this hybrid world is making the network more complex is on the rise. Traditional networking requirements are still top of mind—performance, reliability, scalability, visibility—but customers have to account for them across multiple platforms and providers. In 451 Research’s Voice of the Enterprise survey, participants named “high complexity” as the biggest pain point related to networking.
Giving Network Control Back to the Enterprise
With this complexity comes several pitfalls associated with giving control of the network back to enterprise end users. Curry specifically noted the careful balance between cost control and performance, especially with the on-demand nature of the current infrastructure landscape.
“There’s still a lot of focus on cost. If you start to get into the on-demand nature, and you have these tools at the ready that allow you to rapidly scale or have some control over peak usage, the next thing you know, you get a bill where the sprawl is 2-3 times what you thought it was going to be,” she said.
Providers will have to work to get customers comfortable with forecasting their network usage and be able to translate that into the appropriate management. Curry found it interesting that, in the first slide shared above, interconnection and connectivity were top of mind for many participants, but only 26 percent were thinking about network management.
“The easier you make it for customers to make changes, the more you introduce some of that variability that maybe they’re not thinking about,” Curry said.
With a hyper-focus on cost optimization, enterprises can get themselves into situations where they may unintentionally starve some areas of the network. Or, conversely, the costs might skyrocket. Curry noted there are a number of unknowns as self-management tools become more prevalent.
“There are a lot of pitfalls, as well as a lot of opportunity as you get into self-management,” she concluded.
How Network Figures into 5G and COVID-19
In an interview with the INAP ThinkIT blog after the session, Curry shared additional information on how network has and will continue to be impacted by 5G and COVID-19 demands.
The 5G revolution is going to impact multi-tenant data centers (MTDC). Curry noted that 5G spending is predicted to double from 2019 – 2020, but there is still uncertainty around what 5G means to all aspects of infrastructure.
“For data centers, there are the ‘known’ changes that will have to take place, including upgrades and changes to routers, switching, etc.” Curry said. “There is an expectation of changes coming to SDN and NFV (network functions virtualization), but the extent is unknown. There is a breaking point in transporting data from the edge to central data centers, and this is where the MTDC will need to evolve.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has also had an impact on NaaS/on-demand network. Curry stated that while many businesses support remote working, an overnight pivot to full remote workforces further highlighted the need for flexibility and scale in all parts of the infrastructure.
“Some verticals experienced almost overnight saturation of their infrastructure as the daily usage model was completely altered,” Curry said. “And security, while always a priority, resurfaced again as the enterprise was forced to take a new look at the ways their users interact with the systems and data.”
Simplify Your Hybrid Infrastructure with INAP
Networking is an essential element of any successful hybrid strategy, but the complexity doesn’t have to burden your team.
Cut through the complexity and get the performance, reliability, scalability and visibility you need with INAP’s network solutions. Take advantage of our 90+ points of presence, 27 public cloud-on ramps, route-optimized IP transit and global high-speed backbone. To top it off, our experienced solution engineers will design right-sized data center and networking solutions for unique needs.