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Five steps to build a modern foundation in the connected economy

(Image credit: Image Credit: Flex)

Applications have become the lifeblood of every organization as they help us connect, innovate, inform, educate, and move the world forward. To support our growing dependence on applications, organizations are undergoing widespread digital transformation or IT modernization initiatives.

Agile DevOps teams are creating highly distributed and dynamic applications delivered through a diverse mix of on-premises, public, and private clouds, content delivery networks (CDNs), and microservices platforms.

Traditional network infrastructures, however, weren’t built to support the deployment, connectivity, and delivery of applications at the scale we’re seeing today. These outdated foundational technologies, including appliance-based DDI (DNS, DHCP, and IPAM) solutions, are impeding enterprise modernization initiatives by hindering automation, performance, and scaling.

To support today’s complex, distributed applications, networks must be intelligent and adaptive; they must be able to accommodate microservices, automation and APIs. They must support three major elements:

New deployment surfaces that extend into different environments, including private, public, and hybrid clouds.

There’s a need to tie everything together and manage various systems consistently. A lack of integration leads to performance degradation, higher costs and weaker cybersecurity.

Automation workflows — including deployment and orchestration — along with highly distributed application, device, and workforce architectures.

It’s critical to address microservices, edge, serverless environments, and the convergence of IT and operational technology (OT).

Disparate groups of users with everything from laptops and smartphones to IoT devices.

Not only are these devices most likely spread across different geographies, they require different technologies to connect and exchange data effectively and securely.

Unfortunately, legacy systems and frameworks present other formidable problems. They don’t adequately support mission critical initiatives like DevOps, NetOps and DevSecOps. They also create challenges for IT teams that have traditionally been involved with connectivity and what happens inside the network, rather than today’s microservice-centric architectures. These groups often lack the tools and expertise to adopt a more sophisticated approach.

Minimal disruption

Current business and IT environments would benefit from a DNS-based delivery mechanism that more effectively ties together applications and elements. This approach delivers resilient, cloud-ready, intelligent DNS/DDI to connect and deliver applications at global scale, helping technologies function as an ecosystem rather than as linked components.

With the right strategic framework and tactical approach in play, it’s possible to move to a modern IT foundation with minimal disruption. There is the need to operate an IT infrastructure at the protocol layer, which is a natural fit for the intersection of both application and access networking. This supports a platform that’s API-first, SDK-driven, and containerized, as well as software and service-based. Being modular, it also delivers maximum agility and flexibility.

Comprehensive managed DNS connects the internal aspects of a network, including users, devices, applications, and microservices, to each other. This fuels application delivery to create exceptional user experiences while intelligent traffic orchestration and management for applications is at the center of the enterprise, regardless of where applications and traffic reside.

Take five steps

To move ahead, it’s important to define and adopt the technology most suitable for your company’s environment, and to address cultural components and the organizational impact of the initiative. Here are five steps to follow:

1.            Analyze your current environment.

Identify how and where modern foundational technology can support the type of change that’s necessary. The goal is to eliminate single points of failure and establish a framework that makes it easier to implement and integrate systems with the rest of the stack. Capabilities to consider include intelligent traffic steering, automated infrastructure deployments, configuration management and orchestration. Understand the requirements for each specific use case. This includes the makeup of infrastructure, traffic patterns, and when and how periodic bursts occur. You may also want to gain granular, data-driven control over application data and make infrastructure data actionable.

2.            Build a roadmap for change.

Decide what’s required to make the transition. Map the needs to tools and solutions, then look for vendors with extensive automation capabilities, particularly in regard to DDI, who can introduce best practices and industry standards. Be clear about the financial model for the initiative, including transitioning from a CAPEX model to an OPEX model. Don’t ignore cultural issues regarding how a change in infrastructure will impact different groups, particularly in regard to their independence and autonomy.

3.            Establish a specific plan.

Develop a strategy. No two companies are the same and many organizations require a phased approach. This may mean initially moving a single location or a segment of the infrastructure or a set of applications. Conversely, some organizations will benefit from a rip-and-replace approach; still others, such as start-ups, may adopt a greenfield approach.

4.            Evaluate your product needs and find the right solution provider.

When it comes to product needs, there are many elements to address, but in the case of DDI, a product should offer ultra-fast response times; unified service discovery and global traffic management; intelligent traffic steering; real-time propagation and provisioning; real-time monitoring and delivery alerts; dynamic routing; logging and statistics; DNSSEC; and simplified workload management across multiple data centers, cloud environments, and heterogeneous systems. This approach also boosts security by minimizing attack surfaces, introducing greater flexibility when dealing with outages and attacks, and enabling zero-trust security postures. It should also offer an API-first design that integrates with existing vendors and supports DevOps workflows.

5.            Embark on the initiative.

The resulting flexible deployment model, along with the ability to introduce multiple data centers/cloud providers and CDNs will put applications and data closer to end users. However, the task of modernizing the technology platform is ongoing, so realistic expectations should be set and a system established that supports further changes in the months and years ahead.

Today’s hyper-connected world runs on applications, and success increasingly hinges on connecting and delivering applications at global scale. Agility, flexibility and resiliency aren’t negotiable. In fact, they’re at the center of digital transformation. The migration to a modern foundational technology framework enables cloud-enabled networks, users, applications and services to operate faster, smarter and better. It’s a critical element in taking an enterprise network to the next level.

Mark Fieldhouse, General Manager EMEA, NS1 (opens in new tab)

Mark Fieldhouse is General Manager EMEA at NS1, a leader in next generation DNS and application traffic management solutions. He is responsible for NS1’s growth in the region.