Transforming the Transformers

By: Ben Edmond

Digital transformation means a lot of things to a lot of different people, depending on their perspective, industry position and experiences. While some see it as a shift towards the use of new digital technology to realize cost savings, others view digital transformation as a complete overhaul of their organization’s processes and procedures to reinvent experiences for their customers, employees and partners.

Regardless of definition, we can all agree that it is happening now, and those who are not actively pursuing a journey of digital transformation will be left behind. In fact, according to a Tech Pro Research survey, 70 percent of enterprises currently have a digital transformation strategy or are working on one. The benefits of digital transformation are numerous, but when PTC asked executives what they perceive the top benefits to be, they named improved operational efficiency (40 percent), faster time to market (36 percent) and the ability to meet customer expectations (35 percent).

Network and managed service providers are playing a critical role in helping enterprises realize digital transformation by evolving the network to support new technologies such as cloud applications to Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and more. However, the same network and managed service providers responsible for enabling this transformation aren’t immune to the challenges that they themselves are helping to address for their customers. It begs the question: Are the transformers on their own path to transformation?

Driving Network Evolution to Support Digital Transformation

The network is at the heart of all digital transformation enablement. The availability of an agile, reliable, low latency network directly impacts the success or failure of these digital initiatives. Imagine a ride-share app experiencing an error in its network, causing a delay in communication between driver and customer. Or, a situation where a healthcare provider is on a videoconference consultation with a patient and an error in the network causes major lag in delivery. The availability and reliability of these networks is crucial, and infrastructure must keep pace.

Network issues can be especially problematic within organizations that utilize wide-area networks (WAN) for branch offices. These legacy networks utilizing MPLS connections don’t lend themselves to the cloud-based collaboration apps and the dramatic increase in connected devices in branch locations, let alone provide adequate security. Enterprises have invested in new technologies to fuel digital transformation, but in order to maximize these investments, they need to transform their existing network.

A recent survey conducted by Hanover Research found that among those surveyed, 36 percent cited legacy systems as being a challenge to realize digital transformation. Meanwhile, in the same survey, 24 percent of respondents identified legacy system complexity and/or the technical department as the most difficult challenge. 

Network and managed service providers are offering the solution to transform legacy WAN networks in the form of software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). SD-WAN allows enterprises to control connectivity to their central headquarters and branch offices through a single management plane. It enables enterprise customers to decouple the last-mile provider from the core network, enabling them to select the very best network for each location. This leads to massive economic improvements as well as advancements in performance, flexibility and control.

Up to this point, traditional WAN networks have been built with routers, WAN optimizers and firewalls for each location. With the arrival of SD-WAN, businesses can now connect to remote locations without the need for proprietary hardware or MPLS circuits from carriers. SD-WAN simplifies the management and operation of a WAN by separating the networking hardware from its control mechanism.

SD-WAN is especially key to digital transformation, as it provides the ability to deploy new services and applications across the WAN quickly and efficiently. It addresses the increased bandwidth demands from connected devices with more affordable connectivity options.


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