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The Pressing Need to Deliver Digital Transformation Over Fiber Optical Networks

2021-05-18 133
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This article was originally posted on ZDNet and has been edited.

As noted in a McKinsey report, digital transformation has accelerated by the equivalent of three to four years in the last year alone. Meanwhile, smart technologies are rapidly transforming how cities and entire business sectors are operating. Industry 4.0 — a new industrial revolution, where digital technologies increasingly underpin every aspect of work — has been on the horizon for a few years now, but events over the past year are proving to be the big catalyst, or inflection point, for it. All this transformation means that enterprises are better able to serve their customers, work rapidly, and build digital services for better efficiency and productivity.

Underpinning all of this innovation is a new wave of innovation in connectivity infrastructure: fiber optical networks.

According to an Ernst & Young (EY) report, it is fiber optical networks that will provide the foundation for society to take this next step into a digitally-driven future. "The fiber-connected era can connect everything, achieving massive data transmission and breaking its own limitations," the report states, before highlighting three areas in particular that are "upgraded" when operating over fiber.

• Technical upgrades: Improved bandwidth, stability, latency, and reliability allows consumers and businesses to further rely on connections.

• Application upgrades: Fiber enables Ultra-High-Definition (UHD) media, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), the Internet of Things (IoT), and smart services that allow all parties to do more with their Internet.

• Infrastructure upgrades: Fiber allows data-driven organizations the capacity and bandwidth to upgrade their network architecture and drive even deeper into data.

Meanwhile, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC), there is a long way for organizations to go before they are fully transformed: 63.2% of enterprises have only just begun their transformation journey (or have yet to start at all), and only 8.4% are fully transformed. The opportunity is there for the bulk of enterprises to gain an early mover advantage and competitive differentiation, leveraging the opportunities of fiber optical networks to accelerate their transformation now.

Everything is Becoming Smart

Fudan University in China is one such organization that has an aggressive digital transformation strategy, built on the back of a fiber optical network. The goal for the university is to leverage an Internet + Smart Campus strategy as its pathway to building a world-class university. Fudan University engaged with Huawei to deliver a fiber optical network solution — Huawei Campus OptiX — which has enabled a raft of digital applications across the university experience, benefiting both students and educators. These benefits include: eHall, eLearning, unified payment, smart meal ordering, self-service smart library, and simulated medical operations (for medical students) using technologies including facial recognition, VR, and AR.

This fiber optical network platform that the university rolled out is also highly upgradable, and can be seamlessly upgraded to 10G, 20G, and 50G down the track. It can also satisfy the requirements for Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, and, as a final benefit, in comparison to traditional Ethernet, the fiber optic network minimizes the need for weak-current rooms, cooling devices, and cabling, resulting in a 30% fall in energy consumption.

Education is just one example of an industry vertical that benefits from fiber optic cabling. Across all sectors this technology has relevance — it enables more efficient logistics in retail, telemedicine applications, smart cities, and advanced manufacturing. For example, in Germany, manufacturing — which accounts for around 20% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — has benefitted greatly from the Industry 4.0 innovation that fiber optical networks have unlocked. Through these networks, German manufacturers have been able to lead the world in smart manufacturing, through data collection, remote monitoring, and precise control — all of which require the kind of high bandwidth, low latency, and low jitter that fiber optical networks enable (see table below). This allows the German manufacturing industry to invest in targeted technology upgrades, adopting network slicing, edge computing, converged network architecture, industrial security systems, industrial network monitoring, and industrial network standardization as applicable to their Industry 4.0 goals.

For Chief Information Officers (CIOs), the considerations that fiber optic networks enable include:

• Data density and modularity: CIOs can leverage larger data pools in real-time, across the entire network.

• Edge computing: The edge has always relied on low latency and stable connections for those processes that can't be handled on-site, across an expansive range of endpoint devices. Fiber optic networks unlock that potential.

• Automation: The bandwidth capabilities of fiber optic networks mean that wide-scale automation can be deployed across the organization, freeing up employees to focus on higher-end tasks.

Transformation is Still a Challenge — but One That Can Be Overcome

As the IDC report shows, only 8.4% of enterprises are fully digitally transformed, and only 28.4% more consider themselves substantially down the path of transformation. For nearly two thirds of enterprises, digital transformation remains a long-term goal.

The reason for this is simple: CIOs understand that transformation is challenging, and over 70% of transformation exercises fail to deliver on their expected value. However, at the same time, there is an understanding that transformation is increasingly a do or die mission, with spending on transformation rising 10.4% to US$1.3 trillion in 2020.

Fiber optical networks are providing the platform and foundation that enable transformation solutions to deliver on their promise. By minimizing latency and maximizing bandwidth and scalability, enterprises can deliver the kind of real-time processing and insights that are needed for transformation activities.

Fiber optical networks are providing the platform and foundation that enable transformation solutions to deliver on their promise. By minimizing latency and maximizing bandwidth and scalability, enterprises can deliver the kind of real-time processing and insights that are needed for transformation activities.

Enterprises are experiencing a historic development opportunity, with favorable policies and markets propelling the development of optical communications. The fiber optic network, as a foundation for the new approach to technology, is providing the intelligence for digital economies, and empowering enterprises across all industry verticals to take advantage of the opportunity.

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