The Network Will Drive the Digital Future – CIO
“We are at an inflection point as digital transformation efforts shift from ‘project’ or ‘initiative’ status to strategic business imperative. Every (growing) enterprise, regardless of age or industry, must become ‘digital native’ in the way its executives and employees think, what they produce, and how they operate.”
Frank Gens, Senior Vice President and Chief Analyst, IDC
That the world is going digital is not up for debate: the evidence is overwhelming, and early adopters are reaping substantial rewards. Nor is the means to transforming your business to a digital enterprise in question: cloud, analytics, mobility, customer experience and security are essential.
Essential to successful digital businesses: networks that are fast, flexible and secure. Without such networks — either on-premise or via a service provider — the growth in data, the acceleration of the speed of decision-making, the necessity of end-to-end security and the requirement for automation to facilitate all of these aspects — fast, accurately and cost-effectively — the payoff, digital transformation (DT), is impossible.
However, digital transformation is just the first step in creating a digital world, according to Juniper Networks CEO Rami Rahim. Beyond DT is the next phase, what he calls Digital Cohesion. With Digital Cohesion, business models become friction-free, technology automatically adapts to human behavior, user interfaces become natural, learning curves are eliminated, and applications act on their own, connecting with each other spontaneously.
Fueled by four core forces — economics, access to technology, competition, and time to adoption — Digital Cohesion’s services will automate the mundane, anticipate needs, enable better decisions, and enhance our personal and business lives, said Rahim.
Supporting — and enabling — Digital Cohesion will be the network. To be successful, digital services will need to be instantaneous with access to large amounts of knowledge, including sensor data. Networks must move large volumes of information quickly and securely to and within the cloud, putting tremendous pressure on networking technologies, and demanding new approaches for automation, security, interoperability and performance.
Called digitization or Industry 4.0, the 24×7 online world is being driven by the unrelenting growth in data — actionable data will grow by 9.6x by 2025 — and devices — connected devices will grow by more than 50% to 30 billion by 2020, and 80 billion by 2025. This explosive growth is overwhelming networks, and likewise many businesses that cannot keep pace and provide the products and services customers want in a secure manner, quickly and affordably.
Digital transformation drives significant business performance improvements in speed to market, customer satisfaction and new business revenue. Companies going digital expect to increase annual revenues by an average of 2.9% and reduce costs by an average of 3.6%. But that pales in comparison with the “first movers” who combine high investment levels with advanced digitization, and are “already gaining a nearly insurmountable advantage over competitors.” 
Although just a tiny fraction of the market, first movers “are far more likely to be forecasting both revenue gains of more than 30% and cost reduction of more than 30% at the same time.”
The Post-Digital Transformation World
After DT comes Digital Cohesion, where multiple applications self-assemble to deliver new, predictive services that continuously adapt to a customer’s behavior, enabling better decision-making and enriching their personal and business lives. DC is very much a work in progress, but most of the technologies required are available or in development, and as with DT, early adopters will gain a huge advantage over their competitors.
Digital Cohesion will allow applications, services and data will be provisioned and deployed across automated networks, allowing new revenue streams to be brought on-line at the speed of today’s business.
An essential aspect of DC will be the emergence of mega services, bundles that consolidate multiple individual services and feature one interface, login, payment and tight integration that makes them all work together seamlessly. Instead of having to select from and deal with a laundry list of individual services, these mega or “lifestyle” services will anticipate needs and requirements and provide the optimal personal and business solutions.
Here’s what some of those lifestyle services might look like:
- A medical service, hooked up to a diabetic patient with a wearable device that monitors heartbeat, blood sugar level and blood pressure. It’s connected to home sensors that track analytics, monitor the IoT sensors, fitness levels, food eaten and uses machine learning, automation and more to continually assess the health of the patient. Finally, it takes action when needed, including dispatching a home healthcare professional.
- A dinner service that combines a family’s fitness/bio monitoring service with their medical, food analysis, refrigerator inventory and food supply services. The goal is to order the delivery of food according to the family’s preferences, fitness goals, allergies and medical restrictions. Recommended recipes appear on the kitchen screen when the service determines you are in the mood to cook, or it will order your restaurant meal in advance or arrange for delivery — all according to your habits.
- Business services that understand the goals, financials, and culture of a company; connect with a best-practices service that collects and analyzes data derived from thousands of companies in similar situations; communicate with a decision service which, through probability analysis and deep learning, determines the best paths forward; and, sends this to a presentation service that puts all of the data, analysis and proposal into an executive level presentation.
The New Network
However, this digital future is changing how we interact with technology, which requires new approaches to networks. Rather than today’s environment where people must react to technology, technology will adapt to people.
Under the existing paradigm, up to 90% of IT resources are involved with just keeping the lights on, and 80% of businesses experience network errors at least six times per month, caused by human fault. Automation will enable a much more reliable and agile network with auto provisioning, smart auto-bandwidth and fast resolution (and prevention) of security issues, i.e. what Juniper calls “Self-Driving Networks.”
Protecting the network, data and users will require new approaches to security to ensure adoption and growth of these mega services. Juniper’s vision called the ‘Software-Defined Secure Network’, is intended to enable a systematic framework that facilitates the trust level for widespread adoption of Digital Cohesion.
However, regardless of the approach chosen, security and trust are integral to a digital world, alongside automation, interoperability and performance.
No Pain, No Gain
With business benefits that start with new/higher revenue and lower costs and escalate from there, digitalization — and Digital Cohesion — offer a compelling vision for the future. However, achieving that future will require substantial changes, from culture, complexity, new technologies and skills, to a substantially faster pace of decision-making at the right times in the right places.
It’s still early days, and there is much work yet to be done. A recent survey of more than 2,700 IT and business decision-makers by Wakefield Research and Juniper found that companies are not prepared for the impact of digital disruption. There are business, technology and cultural issues to be resolved.
However, digitization and Digital Cohesion are evolving rapidly, and pushing the network to the forefront. A number of progressive service providers and enterprises are already deploying one or more of these approaches and seeing substantial benefits. Smart companies will join them.