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Driving Digital Transformation with the Enterprise Network

By Ian Foo, Director, Product Marketing & Branding, Network Product Line, Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.

The case for enterprise digital transformation is hardly debatable. The business world has changed more in the last decade, due to technology, than in any other period since the industrial revolution. Over this short time, new machinery fundamentally changed business processes and the production of goods was streamlined by transforming manufacturing into a highly automated, more efficient system. The increasing sophistication of television advertising helped reinforce connections between businesses and consumers. Additionally, near-universal telephone service and routine international air travel created other pathways for connecting businesses worldwide. We have witnessed the dawn of a new era of business transformation that has changed the world. The businesses that understood the power of these new tools seized the opportunity to dominate their competition and become modern powerhouses in their respective markets. History is rife with examples of once-strong competitors that were slow to adapt and quickly became little more than markers of the past.

Over the last ten years it has become ever more obvious that technology is growing to the point of creating another industrial revolution. The tools and capabilities emerging from the technology space are poised to further streamline and connect industrial processes beyond current standards. More recently, new advances in technology show the potential to dramatically provide advantages to those that learn how to harness them to evolve their products, elevate their services, improve their processes, and better connect with their customers. As has happened in the past, within the next two decades respected industry leaders, including present-day Fortune 100 companies, are likely to falter or disappear because of their inability to adapt to a changing competitive landscape and hyper-connected customer environment.

Let’s look at the current field of relevant advanced technology tools and platforms, such as Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, Virtual Reality (VR), location services, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The question we need to ask is not whether a business should understand these disruptors and find ways to use them, but rather, what is the cost of not doing so? Even worse, what are the costs if competitors find enlightenment before they do? These tools (or their absence) have the potential to trigger ‘extinction events’ for many businesses, across many industries. Just as in nature, those that do not evolve fast enough will perish.

The Digitally Transformed Enterprise

A pool of emerging technologies, if properly leveraged into applications and services within the enterprise, have the potential to dramatically enhance business responsiveness, product development, customer support, and customer reach. At the core of most business processes is data and the ability to make decisions based on fast access to adequate, relevant information. This transcends the provider side that creates and sells products and services as well as the consumer side where products or services are purchased. Consumers use data to decide what and when to buy. Businesses use data in the process of deciding how to adjust to market dynamics, meet customer demands, and streamline internal capabilities to increase efficiency for higher profitability. In all cases, the more high quality, relevant data insight that is provided, the faster and more accurately decisions can be made. However, there are caveats about how this data is best processed:

  • Data not directly relevant to decision-making becomes ‘noise’ and adversely affects the outcome of the process.
  • Too much data is difficult for humans to parse and understand. This blurs the visibility of the potential value buried within the data, and affects the clarity of the process.
  • This is where the new generation of technology tools comes into play. Data gathering and collection platforms, such as the IoT and location services, provide exponentially increasing volumes of data that, if understood and visualized correctly, will shed deep predictive insight on the behavior patterns of technical systems and customers.

    Imagine obtaining more wide-reaching and deeper visibility into customer preferences, interests, spending patterns, and trends before your competitors do, or even before your customers realize it. This capability can greatly enhance a business’s ability to connect with their customer base and market, and lead to increased customer satisfaction and superior customer experiences — all of which are clear competitive advantages. Again, imagine being able to gain insight and clear, logical, algorithmic visibility into today’s complex business systems and processes, or the machinery that implements some of those processes, to gain proactive intelligence on improved methods, inefficiencies, or pending failures. This capability can greatly enhance a business’s operational efficiency, maximize productivity, and reduce errors and waste — leading to better product and service innovation, quality, and reliability. These are all real possibilities, attainable by correctly applying the portfolio of new technologies to the data that surrounds us, waiting to be mined, processed, analyzed, and interpreted. Many enterprises across a multitude of verticals, such as retail, healthcare, manufacturing, and energy, have already started the journey to leverage these tools as drivers of competitive advantage.

    AI, AR, Big Data, machine learning, the IoT, and location services are leading us into a world of data abundance — and the ability to groom and manipulate it for relevance and clarity. However, these new technologies will create services that, in themselves, bring new challenges to enterprise IT. These include how to incorporate technologies into applications, how quickly new applications can be developed and tested to use these services effectively, and how quickly we can roll out enhanced capabilities into production for use by knowledge workers. When you add these layers, the challenges often seem never-ending, even insurmountable: 1) Underlying technical requirements of transporting and pooling data securely, quickly, and reliably between endpoints. 2) Systems for processing that data. The key to making progress in the journey of digital transformation is to create the right foundational IT environment that is conducive to the exploration, development, and rollout of new technologies in the enterprise, while minimizing risks and costs. This is entirely possible.

    The Network as a Digital Transformation Enabler

    The desire to pursue digital transformation of the enterprise begs the question, ‘What is the right enterprise IT environment to help nurture the development, use, and rollout of new technology capabilities in order to make the transformation successful?’ The simple answer is that in order for an enterprise IT environment to support business-class data transport, integration, access, and security, it should provide the following capabilities:

  • Agility: Quick deployment of IT resources for development, test, and production
  • Visibility: Improving reactive and proactive insight into end-to-end baseline and abnormal operating states
  • Ease of use: Simplified interfaces for complex management environments, thus enabling more effective configuration, policy deployment, and maintenance
  • Security: Consistent application of security policies to IT elements regardless of time, location, or method of access
  • Open integration: Providing an open-source platform on which to develop and deliver services and applications that require improved network data insight
  • From an enterprise network perspective, all of these goals can be addressed with modern cloud-driven solutions. Huawei’s All-Cloud Network architecture provides this by delivering a network solutions platform that enables:

  • Ubiquitous policy and intent-driven connectivity optimized for reliability and end-user experience
  • An open, integrated, and enhanced platform that can access network data and insight and be used in advanced analytics for Business Intelligence (BI) and social media applications
  • A secure end-to-end network environment capable of preserving policy intent regardless of physical location, method of network access, endpoint type, or application
  • Some examples of how Huawei’s All-Cloud Network solution benefits the enterprise network are found in the data centers where Huawei’s Agile Controller provides a platform for automation and integration. The All-Cloud Network solution provides application mapping requirements to the network as well as integration access to network telemetry and statistical data to be harnessed by enterprise analytics and social applications.

    The resulting automation link between applications and production networks can reduce deployment cycles for new IT resources, workloads, or microservices by reducing provisioning and change times from hours or days to minutes. The network data and information made accessible through the open integration can be used by intelligent analytical systems such as Huawei’s FabricInsight to provide machine learning and AI-based network fault resolution, predictive maintenance, and advanced adaptive security capabilities.

    By leveraging the benefits of a multi-layered cloud architecture to gain deeper insight, make better decisions, and connect with their customers, CloudFabric helps enterprises around the globe employ their data centers to be more competitive and successful in their respective markets across industry verticals.

    Huawei’s All Cloud Network architecture also provides digital transformation benefits in other areas of the enterprise network outside of the data center, like the enterprise Wide Area Network (WAN). Huawei’s Cloud Enterprise Private Network (CloudEPN) solution helps enterprises meet the complex needs of modern enterprise hybrid WANs while minimizing WAN operating costs. The CloudEPN solution leverages the benefits of simplified, flexible Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) edge platforms and cloud-based management. The formerly complex multiple-step processes of network service requests, purchasing, provisioning, configuration, and services deployment are reduced to a simplified process of six steps or less by IT personnel. The solution effectively transforms the legacy branch access router into a service and application-delivery platform by allowing easier deployment of multiple connectivity options, edge-based WAN services, and application level integration. In this manner, the enterprise WAN can be transformed from a simple transport into a platform for intelligently optimized connectivity, deeper insight, and consistent security.

    Similarly, Huawei’s CloudCampus solution brings the advantages of an All-Cloud Network architecture to reap similar benefits in the rapid deployment of new services, applications, and policies on the network edge of the internal LAN access. The open, integrated nature of Huawei’s CloudCampus, driven by Huawei’s Agile Controller for enterprise campuses, also provides the platform for integrated access to network and location data, telemetry, and state that can significantly enhance a digital transformation journey with advanced analytics. By feeding data into network-based analytics platforms, CloudCampus can provide intelligent operations and maintenance capabilities. By feeding data into enterprise analytics and social applications, CloudCampus can add deeper perspective into enterprise business intelligence, process visibility, and decision making.

    All of these combine to provide the platform necessary to support a transformative enterprise environment. Enabling faster, easier, and more efficient internal technology exploration, application development, data analysis, data access, communications, and implementation leads to better decision making by both businesses and their customers.

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