If you boiled down the concept of digital transformation to a single word, it would be “application.” The goals of digital business include adding functionality, improving operational efficiencies and enhancing the customer experience. To meet any of these goals, you have to add or enhance existing applications.
Applications provide the interface between customers and businesses. If they perform poorly, issue error messages or force users to wait too long for services, they create a negative impression of the company. Therefore, digital strategies should set application performance and usability as a priority. For that to happen, you must deal with these common roadblocks:
- Aging, inflexible legacy infrastructure
- Complex IT architecture
- Data and application security
Failure to address these roadblocks results in underperforming, unsafe environments that frustrate users and complicate the life of administrators.
Aging, Inflexible Infrastructure
As organizations add more applications to automate processes and enhance usability, data traffic increases substantially. Some originates within the network while a lot more flows in from a growing number of devices – smartphones, tablets, social media applications and in some cases purpose-built industrial devices.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G will create even more data through sensors and trackers deployed in a variety of settings, from smart buildings to smart cities to vast, distributed industrial environments where equipment and people are monitored around the clock.
Legacy networks cannot handle the added demands of digital strategies, creating a serious obstacle. Companies need intelligent, adaptive networks to transport data between billions of devices, edge sites, data centers and cloud environments worldwide. Otherwise, they cannot accommodate traffic fluctuations or an unexpectedly large boost in demand.
In recent years, companies have experienced downtime as a result of the “Reddit hug of death,” a phenomenon that floods a website with so much traffic that it crashes. Here’s what happens: A company or product gets highlighted on Reddit, bringing attention to it. Reddit users then flock to the company’s website, overwhelming it with traffic beyond capacity, effectively shutting down online business. What starts out as a positive quickly turns into a negative for the company. Similarly, multiple theater websites’ order systems went down after the tickets for Avengers: Endgame went on sale.
These incidents are avoidable with an adaptive infrastructure that dials up resources when needed. As such, a business experiencing the “Reddit hug” or a similar phenomenon doesn’t get hobbled by its own success. Adaptive networks provide the flexibility, control and automation to provide the necessary availability and responsiveness to scaling needs. In the digital economy, organizations simply cannot afford downtime, especially in verticals such as finance, retail, healthcare and communications, which rely heavily on the network.
Complex IT Architecture
Another roadblock businesses face on the path to digital business is complexity. Largely driven by cost, companies are making important decisions about which applications move to which clouds. Certain applications run better – and are more affordable – in one cloud than another.
This explains why enterprises on average use five clouds, according to RightScale’s 2018 State of the Cloud Report. Cloud adoption among enterprises has risen to 96%, and 81% have a multi-cloud strategy, the report says.
Multi-cloud environments, mixing public and private clouds, can create challenges such as figuring out which application to run in which cloud based on data-transfer needs, security and other factors. Think of an application that handles medical records. Because of the sensitivity of the data, all information has to be archived and transmitted in compliance with privacy regulations. If housed in a cloud environment, this data should be in a private cloud with the proper security controls in place. If the data has to travel between multiple locations, you want dedicated, private connections that keep it out of the public internet, where the chance of security is higher.
Beside the complexity of managing multiple clouds, businesses increasingly operate in a continuous integration, continuous delivery mode as new features are constantly added to applications. At the same time, new architectures are being introduced to support emerging technologies and operating systems are being updated all the time.
All of these factors ensure environments are dynamic, not static, which adds management complexity. So while the flexibility and scalability of multi-cloud environments are welcome attributes, organizations need well-defined strategies and capable tools to secure and manage their environments in a simplified way.
Data and Application Security
Another obstacle to digital strategies is the need to secure more endpoints and applications. Securing the perimeter is no longer enough because mobility and IoT are making the network ubiquitous. Virtualized network security services and load balancing are replacing perimeter-based security.
In the near future, autonomous cars will generate several terabytes of data each day while smart cities are collecting data from digital street signs and traffic lights to communicate with vehicles and a control center. Securing all this data as it travels back and forth isn’t easy but it must be done. Here, too, the answer is in the network you choose. Networks must have built-in security to securely recognize and prioritize application data.
Since you can’t put a firewall on every smartphone and source of data, the data must be secured as it travels on the network, with monitoring and analytics that constantly improves through the use of machine learning.
For instance, an intelligent network can identify a command and control (C2) center that is communicating with compromised machines around the world. If the C2 center isn’t a recognizable data center, it is possibly operating a botnet getting ready for a distributed denial of service (DDoS) or other type of cyber attack. The network can detect and block the C2 servers to stop such attacks earlier and faster than a perimeter-based approach.
Removing the obstacles to digital strategies isn’t impossible but requires a lot of planning and proper execution. Businesses should look for experienced partners that deliver a secure, flexible network as well as consulting services and expertise to draw up and achieve their digital goals. With these elements in place, organizations can better position themselves to run the applications that open the path to a successful digital future.
Looking to take the next steps in your digital business journey? See how CenturyLink can help your company innovate faster.
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