Networking is undergoing a fundamental transformation. The network of the past—inflexible, brittle, time consuming to modify—can’t help organizations create a digital future that requires pervasive connectivity. But how exactly has networking changed? What was networking’s purpose, and how has the role of networking changed as technology evolved?
Building Upon the Network of the Past
“In the past, the network had two major functions: to act as a barrier to entry for those not authorized to enter the IT system and to move data from a start point to an endpoint within the system’s security perimeter,” notes Kevin Jackson, CEO of GovCloud Network.
Traditional networking physically connected devices such as computers, servers, and routers. IT handled modifications manually. This led to a slim margin of error, often resulting in costly mistakes and expensive labor. Mobility and flexibility were unheard of. “As long as people worked in known locations, IT infrastructure was mostly physical. Organizations had full responsibility for their own IT, this approach was workable,” Jackson says.
This mindset radically changed as the industry’s shift from hardware to software forced rapid transformation. “With applications and data now residing everywhere, companies can no longer rely solely on a hardware-based network deployed inside their data center to run their business,” said Rajiv Ramaswami, VMware COO for products and cloud services. “This new reality requires thinking of networking in a fundamentally different way.”
Today’s Network Values Interconnectivity
Companies now understand that their network must enable rapid change to support modern workforces. Today, the cloud is of utmost importance to the digital life of the end user. Everything of value is connected to the cloud. Users expect pervasive, always-on availability anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Jackson believes delivering interconnectivity is vital for today’s networking infrastructure. “Today, globally interconnected virtual resources are available on demand, immediately tasked to meet critical requirements, and instantly dismantled when no longer needed. The new DevOps and cloud computing environments demand networks capable of dynamically managing data flow and continuously protecting that data. This means data protection at rest, in motion and in use.”
Emerging technology trends challenge limitations of hardware-driven networks. Networks built in software securely and consistently connect corporate data centers, carrier networks, branches, endpoints, and clouds. Additionally, a Virtual Cloud Networks runs more efficiently with lower operational costs and automated network functions such as maintenance and updates. This flexibility enables companies to react in real-time, more accurately leading to a richer and more proactive end-user experience.
The Future of Networking Centers Around Security
Moving further into the digital age, faster speeds and interconnectivity do not come without risk. “The world has awakened to the security and privacy challenges inherent to global connectivity,” Jackson said.
Governments responded to this technological revolution by initiating security safeguards on data, helping to ensure individuals control their public information. One of these new safeguards is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which aims to give European Union citizens more control over personal data. According to Jackson, “GDPR will reshape the industry by forcing dramatic and extensive changes to how individuals and organizations handle data. This will drive network industry evolution by forcing an acceleration of network-based software-defined perimeter (SDP) products and services.”
Almost every aspect of our daily lives revolves around the use of apps & data, be it social media, banking transactions, or retail exchanges. As such, the network must enable rapid connectivity, privacy, and security—all without hindering technological growth and advancement. As company and IT leaders look forward, reflecting on past issues, present technology advancements and future trends can help guide successful networking innovation and transformation.