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Selecting the Right Infrastructure for the Digital Era

Digital transformation is no longer an option; enterprises need to be deliberate in planning for the right infrastructure for their digital journey

By Liliane Offredo-Zreik & Rick Talbot, ACG

The pandemic unleashed digital acceleration

The last eighteen months saw an unprecedented adoption of digital-enabled services and solutions and the substantial increase in the utilization of existing ones. In healthcare, telehealth became an accepted treatment modality overnight and is ushering the accelerated adoption of remote patient monitoring and even acute treatment at home. In manufacturing, faster adoption of automation helped mitigate the effects of social distancing and lockdowns; call centers became virtual; Zoom entered the English lexicon; and, of course, video streaming accelerated its already rapid growth trajectory. Although the majority of technologies that are being used are not new, the public health emergency has nudged customers and providers to overcome typical resistance to change and long evaluation cycles and to adopt digital services. The good news is that the momentum toward digital enablement is not slowing but speeding up, unleashing a digital acceleration remarkable in scale and scope and making digital-first a prevalent, well-accepted approach.

The infrastructure underpinning digital acceleration

But what underpins this digital tsunami? A major enabler of this digitization is data, produced and processed in broader parts of the network from the core to the edge and in significantly larger quantities. Not only does the data necessitate substantial processing, but the business applications also often require very low latencies between the client and its application processor. This need for low latency generally calls for the processing to happen close to the client, often at the edge of the network.

To meet these network and processing challenges, which make continuous innovation and business agility possible, the industry has turned to a cloud infrastructure. The infrastructure is prevalent at the edge, core, and everything in between, enabling it to deliver services where needed and as needed with the right security, latency, and compliance. The requirement for cloud compute in the core of the network is not new, but low-latency compute at the edge of the network is emerging as a major trend. Along with edge computing, the introduction of the countless connected devices that is the Internet of Things and the deployment of 5G cloud Radio Access Network are expected to accelerate and drive the extension of cloud servers to the network edge.  We are entering the cloud-first, cloud everywhere era.

The cloud, itself, is undergoing transformation. Many enterprises deploy their own private cloud networks and then seek resources only available on public clouds, resulting in hybrid cloud networking. Of greater significance, though, is the cloud’s increasing extension to the network edge, which will result in a separate edge cloud infrastructure made up of one or more edge clouds. Between hybrid cloud networking and the emergence of the edge cloud(s), data will commonly cross cloud boundaries, introducing ubiquitous multicloud networking.

The fiber network interconnecting the future cloud infrastructure

For the massive cloud infrastructure to deliver the required compute and speed, it must be interconnected by an extensive, deep, dense, reliable, high-throughput, low-latency communication infrastructure. Only a fiber network with the right characteristics, deployed, operated, maintained, and continuously evolved by an experienced operator with the right framework for support can deliver the appropriate connectivity. Such a network should connect cloud to cloud, cloud to edge, edge to edge, and deliver the connectivity where needed. As the enterprise continues to plan its digital-enabled future, a well-outlined cloud strategy supported by a complementary communication partner is essential for success. In considering this strategy, the enterprise should recognize that it will evolve as markets fluctuate and work with a partner that has the expertise and commitment to innovation to evolve with it and support the enterprise for the long term.

What are the best strategies and enabling solutions for a successful digital strategy? Download the ACG Research paper Cloud Infrastructure Powers Digital Acceleration to find out.