Shared from the 9/10/2019 Financial Review eEdition

Software can maximise performance


When paving their way to the cloud, businesses can fail to appreciate that success also hinges on dealing with their own in-house traffic jams.

The productivity push to ensure that key business applications are available anywhere, any time, is helping drive businesses to embrace software as a service and cloud computing. When pursuing this strategy, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that one of the keys to application performance and availability lies a lot closer to home.

A hybrid strategy that combines private and public resources needs to be underpinned by a robust and agile network, one that can keep pace with the changing needs of the business. Failing to recognise this can put the entire cloud and digital transformation strategy at risk.

This is where hybrid software-defined networks come to the fore, easing traffic jams when working across public and private networks. The software-defined model offers greater visibility into what’s happening across the network while allowing infrastructure to adapt to the needs of the business and ensure that critical applications always have right-of-way.

A traditional physical data network is laid out like a city’s road infrastructure, aiming to ensure the smooth flow of traffic across town. Of course, you can’t build new freeways overnight or redirect them on the fly, so the city’s growth and other challenges result in bottlenecks and traffic snarls, which hurt productivity.

A software-defined network frees the business from the restraints of redeploying physical networking gear to accommodate new traffic challenges. It can automatically re-route freeways, add extra lanes, optimise traffic flow and prioritise different types of traffic, without the need to physically alter the cityscape.

Rather than tearing up all the freeways and starting from scratch to deploy software-defined networking, it can be overlaid on existing physical networking infrastructure.

Businesses need to ensure their physical data network isn’t throttling transformation and growth, says Garth Sperring, the Practice Lead for network and security with cloud and managed service provider Nexon Asia Pacific.

Optimising networks and prioritising applications has traditionally been a complicated and involved process, Sperring says, requiring manual hardware reconfiguration by network engineers and a range of other work to get things running smoothly.

“Now that businesses are looking to continually optimise applications and the flow of data on their network, those old cumbersome processes obviously become impractical and an impediment to productivity.”

“Under the software-defined networking model, you’re not hampered in this way; you can quickly and easily set traffic priority levels by simply choosing the application – the network takes care of the rest.”

As the network perimeter becomes blurred, software-defined networking can be applied to both local and wide area networks – helping eliminate the disconnect when working across public and private resources.

“One of the big mistakes that businesses can make is, once they start using the cloud, they take a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude to the rest of their networking infrastructure,” Sperring says.

“Local and wide area network performance is still key to business productivity, along with the smooth flow of traffic between your public and private networks.”

Prioritising applications is set to become a challenge for a wide range of Australian businesses, not just the top end of town, as their data and voice merge as part of moving to the NBN.

While the focus tends to be on broadband speeds when looking at the NBN, businesses need to ensure the bottleneck doesn’t lie within their own networks.

Traditionally, voice and data were completely separate, “and never the twain shall meet”, Sperring says, but now that voice is just another application, businesses need to take a holistic view.

Once voice competes for bandwidth alongside other business applications, businesses can encounter call quality and reliability issues if they don’t address the need to prioritise and protect specific traffic on the network.

Migrating to the NBN presents businesses with the perfect opportunity to rethink their approach to networking. Cutting through the noise on a busy highway of networking solutions can be a challenge. “Understanding the right lane to take can be simplified by engaging the right solution partners to ensure you are making the most of your investments,” Sperring says.

SD-WAN technology, like Cisco, provides a bridge to cut across the traffic, connecting users and applications, anywhere, any time. Businesses today need to consider scalable solutions to ensure availability and security across the network.

“At the end of the day connectivity is not just about technology, it’s about better business outcomes – which is why you need to be able to align your network priorities with your business priorities.”

See this article in the e-Edition Here