IDC Custom Solutions

Robert Eastman

Understanding the Importance of Next-generation Retail Infrastructure

In pursuit of digital transformation, today’s retail environments have grown more sophisticated and complex due to the adoption and deployment of more cloud-based technologies, multiple and mixed clouds, more bandwidth-intensive and latency-sensitive technologies, and a more diverse set of workloads distributed across multiple cloud environments. Retailers’ legacy networks are now challenged to manage workloads for which they were never designed in heterogeneous environments in which they were never intended to operate.

Retailers are also finding that they require a more intelligent and scalable network that meets customer expectations for connectivity while handling the demands of the Internet of Things (IoT), in-store automation, customer tracking and identification, and security. With more devices and users accessing networks, organizations must be able to segment network traffic in new ways to manage it for load and security.

Against this backdrop of change, retailers must assess the ability of their existing infrastructures to deliver agility, operational efficiency, performance, speed, and security. Although virtualization, cloud, and edge computing provide interesting strategic ways for retailers to leverage — and extend — their current infrastructures, these technologies lead to increasingly complex network requirements that demand a next-generation retail network infrastructure.

The next-generation of retail infrastructure will help deliver the store of the future. Retail network infrastructure is becoming a key retail asset that deserves investment. Networks will increasingly be software defined, and the software-defined network (SDN) represents a link in the evolution of traditional networks to the future vision of autonomous or self-driving networks. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are also being embedded in network technologies to enable networks that are self-configuring, self-diagnosing, and self-healing. Finally, the advent of 5G is creating a lot of excitement even though it will be some time before the vision of 5G core is finally realized.

Network technologies are delivering operational efficiency, performance enhancements, and cost advantages that legacy networks cannot match. Retailers aspiring to embrace digital transformation need to recognize the strategic asset that the next generation of retail infrastructure represents.

With an eye toward the future, network and technology vendors have been introducing new network technologies and features that promise to deliver new retail infrastructure capabilities.

To learn more about the importance of next-generation retail infrastructure, read the IDC Analyst Connection, “Successful Digital Transformation Requires a Modern Retail Network Infrastructure,” sponsored by CenturyLink.