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The challenges of meeting application and access network modernization

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/TechnoVectors)

It will come as no surprise to find that when it comes to modernizing enterprise networks and applications, legacy infrastructure is an obstacle that is holding companies back. Despite this, a recent report has shown that a majority of organizations are making progress in IT modernization efforts and that the Covid-19 pandemic is creating a new sense of urgency amongst managers to increase efficiency while improving the user experience as well as application performance.

The research, ‘Meeting Application and Access Network Modernization Challenges’, was conducted amongst over 400 technology leaders from mid- to large-sized companies in the UK, U.S., and Germany. It defined modernization, in this context, as the transformation of IT platforms of all types, applications, governance, and processes to achieve desired business outcomes.

Across all three countries, the study found that 80 percent of organizations are struggling to reach application delivery requirements with their existing infrastructure, and the impact of the pandemic has highlighted an urgent need for resolution of this problem. In fact, efforts to modernize networks and applications in the UK have accelerated with 75 percent of respondents reporting that budget increases were expected to grow for these initiatives over the next three years.

But research revealed that, overall, companies still have a long way to go. Only 10 percent had achieved their initial objectives and were optimizing operations. Almost a third (31 percent) of UK companies surveyed in June said that they had made significant progress with IT modernization, but 15 percent reported that either no progress had been made at all, or it was on their radar, or that it had just reached the planning stage.

Shortening time spans

The IT modernization initiatives that were expected to span five years are now being condensed, the report suggests. Within the broad scope of IT modernization, companies are prioritizing transformation initiatives for mobility (70 percent), remote data access (68 percent), automation (65 percent), security (61 percent), and IT resilience (60 percent). Other areas where efforts are accelerating include public and private cloud deployments (58 percent and 57 percent respectively), improvements to scalability (58 percent), and deployment velocity (56 percent). Another interesting finding was in the differences between respondents in the three countries. Private cloud was a greater priority in the U.S., cited by 65 percent of respondents vs. 44 percent in the UK and 54 percent in Germany. However, in the UK, the priorities are slightly higher for automation projects where 67 percent of organizations expect acceleration over the next twelve months.

Despite the heightened sense of urgency and increased budgets behind them, survey respondents still reported facing a number of obstacles in their IT modernization projects.

The challenges include a talent and skills gap, in particular for U.S. companies (45 percent) compared with the UK (26 percent), and competing priorities which 37 percent of UK firms cite as an obstacle. Aging networks and the outdated, inflexible organizational structures that often come with them are also highlighted by 40 percent of German respondents, compared with 36 percent in the US and 27 percent in the UK. Technical and operational debt was cited by 31 percent overall, although it was more of an obstacle in the U.S. and Germany (37 percent and 32 percent, respectively) vs. the UK (19 percent).

Addressing the indicators

What these findings indicate is that it is crucial for organizations to examine the core technologies on which their businesses deploy, connect, and deliver applications and determine if they can provide the user experiences that are required, and expected, in today’s modern world. Static, legacy tech drags down modernization efforts because it fails to provide the flexibility and agility that are necessary to support dynamic, scalable applications and IT environments.

Successful digital transformation starts with the underlying enterprise network and application infrastructure — DNS, DHCP, and IP address management, known collectively as DDI. When purpose-built for speed, reliability, and scalability, these foundational technologies are critical in expediting modernization projects, automating network management tasks, and increasing efficiency and operational velocity in complex heterogeneous environments.

Organizations that are looking for the best ways to streamline operations will benefit from a DDI solution that offers third-party API integrations with popular development and orchestration tools and platforms. Automated traffic management and workload orchestration capabilities based on factors like geography, performance and usage, are important for companies to be able to optimize around criteria that includes latency, cost, utilization, and end-user experiences. 

Use of DDI

Although the study found that 45 percent of respondents overall are currently using DDI, this figure is lower in the UK at 32 percent. However, whilst 48 percent of the full cohort have plans to adopt the technology within 12 months, this figure rises to 57 percent amongst UK-based organizations. Adopters reported the most common use cases to be accelerating service discovery in microservices environments (60 percent) and connecting cloud and on-premise applications and data (56 percent). Those with plans to implement DDI cited the ability to connect cloud and on-premise applications and data (59 percent) as a top benefit. Other top use cases for modern DDI adoption included accelerating application delivery (55 percent), automating network management tasks (54 percent), accelerating service discovery in microservices environments (42 percent), and controlling costs associated with application and network management (40 percent).

In addition to DDI, nearly all companies are adopting modern application stack solutions, many of which are aimed directly at addressing network and application performance requirements. There is discrepancy, however, in the speed of adoption. In the UK, companies have fallen behind when it comes to network monitoring, with just 51 percent reporting that they have already implemented these tools. Overall, 96 percent of respondents were either already implementing or planning to implement monitoring capabilities within 12 months. There is also a wide discrepancy in the deployment of multi-CDN with 27 percent of UK firms having completed implementation accompanied with 41 percent in the US and 39 percent in Germany. Other top choices were public/private cloud, multi-cloud (94 percent); automation and orchestration solutions (93 percent); and intelligent traffic management (87 percent).

Clearly the vast majority of companies are engaged with IT modernization efforts aimed at improving mobility, remote application and data access and security. The global pandemic has shone a spotlight on the need to accelerate these efforts. Organizations understand that the stakes are high in terms of speed to market, realizing a competitive advantage, and in some cases, even just moving business forward, in whatever the post-Covid normal turns out to be.

Mark Fieldhouse, General Manager EMEA, NS1