Over the past few years, retailers and other multi-location businesses have focused on issues like protecting their brand by staying ahead of data security and PCI requirements, deploying technology that allows them to engage their customers, and shifting IT resources from day-to-day maintenance towards business innovation and growth. This has led to an application roadmap designed to execute their strategy for enhancing customer experience via multiple integrated channels. It’s a roadmap, I’d add, that relies increasingly on cloud-based applications.
Yet there’s one big problem.
When I ask, “Is your network ready?” to handle this, the overwhelming majority of responses fall into these two categories:
- “I don’t know.”
If I follow up with the question, “Does the perceived cost of upgrading your network limit the ROI and delay approval of key projects?” There’s only one answer: Yes.
This is really a storm that’s been brewing for some time now, and it’s easy to understand the implications when you look at the data.
First, retailers and similarly geographically dispersed organizations are already bandwidth constrained. And it can only get worse given analysts estimate demand growing at the alarming rate of 2X every 18 months.
Second, the move towards best-in-breed cloud-based applications is accelerating, exponentially increasing the need for network performance.
Despite all this, a vast number of CIOs we speak with report they can’t provide service level objectives to internal customers at the application level. They can’t “dial-in” performance of critical applications, and most don’t have any visibility into application performance at all.
That is definitely distressing, considering the hard work and resources spent transforming IT into a strategic business driver.
At a conference I recently attended, a speaker suggested one equation for measuring business success was how quickly a new technology can be leveraged, multiplied by the impact it would have on customer experience (CX). He went on to mention technologies that figured well in this equation.
Curiously, one technology with a huge impact on CX he neglected to mention was the network. A pretty glaring omission, though not totally surprising as many still fail to realize the network has the potential to be innovation’s great enabler. Or conversely, it’s Achilles Heel.
What I’d have suggested he add was how an evolutionary approach to network design could pay substantial dividends in driving customer experience and innovation.
The evolutionary solution I was thinking about was a Hybrid WAN, which provides an ideal path for ongoing movement to SD-WAN (software-defined wide area networking). This is a network design which combines MPLS with cost effective broadband access options, and provides both visibility into application and data flow, as well as control over the use of bandwidth based on that visibility and insight.
This is the kind of network solution we believe will have a huge impact during the coming year, since it lays a foundation for significant short term ROI while addressing the three challenges mentioned earlier; rapidly increasing bandwidth demand, ongoing migration to cloud based apps, and guaranteeing application performance. And of course, a sensible path towards an even more powerful long-term solution, SD-WAN.
In summary, there’s never been a more important – or more opportune – time for multi-location businesses to re-think the WAN. A Hybrid WAN solution that allows MPLS and broadband IP WANs to work together is an ideal place to start, enabling you to begin eliminating downtime, and providing visibility and control to make sure your most essential applications, locations and users get the bandwidth they need, exactly when they need it.
And of course, Hybrid WANs offer an excellent evolutionary path to address broad challenges faced by a growing number of organizations, delivering measurable gains in customer experience, innovation and growth. They also offer a flexible, cost-effective, definitive path towards SD-WAN, which will be essential to staying out front in the ongoing journey to the cloud. And you won’t have to tear down skinny MPLS T1 network to get started.
Learn how to overcome the biggest challenges facing IT as they’re asked to support more applications, data, users and devices as well as complex hybrid environments with our eBook, “Application Performance Optimization and Hybrid Networking.”