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What’s Needed from the Network: Zayo’s Emerging Perspective on Network Evolution

It feels as though, in the world of technology, that constant change is the new normal. Organizations on the leading edge are constantly thinking through how to imagine and deliver new experiences that need technologies to be built, combined, and integrated in new ways.

We all know that networks evolve over time. From the days of X.25 and ATM to today’s carrier-grade, private-dedicated Ethernet and 5G networks, networks have evolved to support innovative services that run on powerful new platforms.

We also know that end-user devices, including phones, tablets, and notebooks, rely on network connectivity.

We more vaguely know that planes, trains, and even automobiles rely on network connectivity.

We tend to overlook that traffic management in cities, oil and gas platform performance, retailer responsiveness, and customer satisfaction, all also rely on network connectivity.

In other words, networks have truly become a necessary foundation for individuals, businesses, industries, and even governments. They’re a necessary ingredient for the agility and responsiveness we’ve all grown to take for granted.

But as you know if you’ve ever had an Internet connection go down, a smart thermostat fail to connect to your app, or a business operation delayed by a faulty router, networks can support agility or stand in its way. Networks can make or break any workload, service, or application.

And today’s networks are under unprecedented pressure. Developers and organizations are trying to provide new experiences, new capabilities, and new outcomes, whether for individuals or organizations. Those efforts to innovate are exposing the limits of conventional networks and pushing organizations to develop new ways of thinking and new service offerings.

Networks need to evolve because, fundamentally, enterprise application environments are becoming more and more cloud-native — the days of one app, and one server are over. Applications in containers or microservices are distributed from core to cloud to edge, edge to edge, this cloud to that cloud, centralized to distributed, and back again. Today’s innovative applications run in a distributed architecture across large-scale networks connected to multiple clouds, and microservices move around in real-time, in response to demand, available server performance, network throughput, or even cloud cost changes.

Imagine for a moment that a leading-edge retailer wants to create in-store experiences with the agility and impact of the web, but they realize that it’s too costly to do this for every store or location — they need to aggregate some capability at clusters of stores, some pieces in the cloud.  They build distributed applications to do the job, but today’s networks aren’t sufficiently agile, performant, or available to support the emerging service.

Network improvements need to be made to handle these needs.

  1. There’s an agility component here — network resources need to be brought online in minutes, reconfigured in seconds, and be ubiquitous, some wired, some wireless. Dynamic access and provisioning will become the catchwords of the day.
  2. There needs to be more capacity at the edge that can aggregate data sets and workloads in order to help address latency and bandwidth issues.
  3. Automation must become a new norm. Whether that’s north-south automation or simply automatic failover, manual intervention will become too complex and costly for organizations.

The best infrastructure providers see these needs and address them with:

  1. More passive optical infrastructure with abundant bandwidth, departing from a fixed port speed / prescribed bandwidth / one price model to something more dynamic.
  2. More distributed edge exchanges to help organizations aggregate data and services at local and regional scales.
  3. More connectivity out to the edge with new fiber deployments and new products, as well as efforts to improve edge-to-edge connectivity.
  4. Finally, expanded automation, making it easier to purchase, provision, configure and expand our offering without manual intervention.

At Zayo, we’re excited to be leading the charge on the evolution of next-generation networks for emerging, demanding workloads and services.