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Run the Network (Don’t Let It Run You)


by Aaron Werley, Vice President, Technology Zayo

Perhaps once an afterthought, networks, and the fiber that are their foundation are getting more attention than ever at the highest levels within enterprise organizations. This is especially true as technological innovations are pushing the boundaries of existing digital infrastructure. What’s more, the most progressive IT teams are continually challenging their current network architecture and contemplating how it needs to evolve and scale to meet ever-increasing needs to share, transport, and compute data.

At Zayo, we are often involved in strategic discussions about the potential of a company’s bandwidth and network infrastructure, particularly as it relates to industries where milliseconds translate into measurable profit and loss. The common thread of these conversations? Control.

The need for network autonomy and increased self-determination is manifesting in a few key topics that are top of mind for IT leadership:

  1. Quickly provisioning bandwidth to support organizational needs
  2. Adapting to shifting product needs in response to application requirements
  3. Determining maintenance steps and timing

Network control is no longer a “nice to have” but an imperative for companies looking to either maintain an edge over their competition or at the very least keep pace with their competitors. While control is top of mind for technology leaders, it opens up a bevy of questions for them as to HOW to accomplish that level of network control while also managing costs, ensuring qualified staff, and other key considerations.

Network Decisions Shouldn’t Be Binary

Historically, a high-bandwidth, low latency network has come in two main varieties: dark fiber or lit services. Each of these has advantages and drawbacks. Dark fiber offers scalability, and customization and allows IT to wield a high degree of control over their network but takes substantial CapEx to implement and requires specialized skill sets to design, operate, optimize and troubleshoot. Conversely, lit services provide a more turnkey solution for IT teams, shorter-term commitments, and have an OpEx payment structure – yet IT teams lose the agility to turn up services quickly and are beholden to carrier maintenance windows.

Bottom line, this binary decision relegates IT teams to either carry some degree of management burden with dark fiber – or sacrifice control with lit services.

Evolving Requirements Demand Better Solutions

The prospect of choosing between two extremes simply won’t suffice for IT teams beholden to network performance, especially as applications push the limits of existing architectures. Businesses focus on big picture aspirations like maximizing growth and profit, entering new markets, and improving user experience –their network infrastructure must respond. These aggressive business requirements of our clients inspired us to think outside the two traditional service options and devise a mid-step solution: a private dedicated network (PDN).

First a disclaimer, PDNs are not relevant for every company. There are specific use cases and/or conditions that often make PDNs a viable alternative:

  • Highly competitive, fast-moving industry verticals
  • Dynamic product environments or aggressive product development leadership
  • Capacity requirements demand immediate attention
  • Stringent security or compliance requirements
  • Conservative financial philosophy or need to conserve cash (OpEx vs CapEx)
  • Of course, there are other driving factors, but those listed are top of mind for the teams we talk to. Ultimately, our conversations center on finding the right solution for each use case, and a growing number of organizations are searching for the happy medium between the capacity and control of dark fiber with the ease-of-use and cost model of lit solutions.

Companies are often surprised to learn that a PDN can be designed to their exact specifications and deployed with zero upfront capital. And while it may seem simply too good to be true, we’ve collaborated with Ciena to ensure we deliver exactly that: a network with all the security and control of dark fiber with the terms, assurances, and reliability of a managed service.

Staying Ahead of Business Demands

IT leaders have a golden opportunity to leverage the cachet they’ve earned by helping their organizations through unprecedented times to enable a more proactive approach to network strategy. Rather than simply maintaining the status quo, IT is in a position to take a leading role in driving business objectives by ensuring greater levels of control and performance while also amortizing the cost. Now is the time to run the network – rather than the network limiting the business.

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