13 October 2022

IDC study: Five recommendations for successful network and connectivity improvements

IDC executive brief cover

Connectivity-driven business is increasingly becoming a prerequisite for modern business. Many day-to-day operations depend on fail-safe transportation of data – be that customer data, maintenance of systems, or analytics. IDC assumes that by 2024 around 80% of enterprises worldwide will have to transform their networks significantly to satisfy expectations of more personalized and interactive user experiences.

To support this transformation, IDC has drawn up a list of five recommendations for successfully improving networks and connectivity in organizations.

1) Bring IT capabilities into line with business requirements for connectivity

Organizations should avoid looking at connectivity in isolation. Although the network plays a crucial role, it is by no means an exclusive one. Connectivity must be grasped as a joint effort on the part of business, IT, and network managers. These stakeholders must cooperate closely with each other, because only once the requirements are clearly defined, can IT teams effectively combine networks, applications, servers, clouds, security, and other elements relevant to connectivity to meet the requirements.

When present and pending business plans are known, network managers can better anticipate data growth, estimate technology needs, and take data protection requirements into account at an early stage. The relationship between performance requirements and costs can also be optimized.

2) Define a networking strategy with clear goals and priorities

The second recommendation can be viewed as a strategic expansion of the first. It is not only important to bring business requirements into line with network capabilities for short-term operative reasons, but also from a long-term perspective. Clear networking strategies provide the basis for synchronizing new ideas, plans, and business models with the necessary technology, investment, and human resources roadmaps. Because connectivity is ultimately aimed at improving an organization’s resilience and agility, these qualities lend themselves as a reference for defining specific goals and priorities.

When it comes to resilience, recent years have proved to be both a blessing and a curse in that multiple weaknesses were revealed. These must now be evaluated methodically to work out how problems might have been avoided or mitigated through improved networking, stronger information sharing, more intensive collaboration, or higher quality customer interaction. After that, priorities can be set by distinguishing between crucial weaknesses that need to be remedied without delay because they have an extremely negative business impact, and nice-to-haves that offer added value but are not essential.

Agility must be aimed at enabling organizations both to respond swiftly to change and to take the initiative proactively – therefore agility in all its forms is worth striving for. Depending on the industry and business model, as well as on human resources and investment capacities, setting priorities might be necessary. For example, you might start by prioritizing investments in your own internal networking before turning to ecosystems and improving networking with partners and supply chains. In other industries, the priorities might be the other way round.

3) Focus on strategic and professional support for your network teams

Daily network operations are becoming increasingly costly in terms of money and effort. Rocketing device and user figures, the increasing number of applications, swelling data flows, and network environment changes at ever shorter intervals all increase network complexity. According to an IDC survey, a lack of time for strategic tasks due to operative workloads as well as recruiting network professionals, training, or a lack of technological support, are already critical issues for around a quarter of the respondents.

Relieving the burden on the network team is therefore essential. The call is for mainly strategic and professional support measures. For instance, 37% desire professional network lifecycle management or change management to synchronize network measures and business goals. Around a third want to involve professional partners and consultants to help them build, operate, and maintain modern network environments. Investments in appropriate tools will also smooth the path towards “NetOps 2.0”, aimed at carrying over DevOps principles such as automation and agility to network operations.

4) Increase resilience and agility with Network as a Service and interconnection services

Networks themselves must be resilient and agile if they are meant to help organizations increase the resilience and agility of their processes. In many cases, network failures incur high costs and often simply cannot be tolerated, for instance in the remote control of machinery and vehicles. Poor quality that does not match up to expectations is often enough to create a bad user experience and loss of reputation. By contrast, overcapacity and overperformance are mainly problematic for cost reasons.

Optimally mapping all requirements and application-specific data flows end-to-end – globally in many cases – is a challenge that is hard to successfully tackle with an enterprise’s own network infrastructure. IDC recommends enterprises boost their own capacities by using the many networking solutions and managed services offered by network, communication, interconnection, cloud, and colocation solution providers.

Using network solutions as Network as a Service (NaaS) offers a way of overcoming internal obstacles relating to network complexity and technology know-how by bringing in the expertise supplied by the service providers. IDC therefore assumes that by 2025 around 60% of medium-sized and large enterprises worldwide will use NaaS to increase their business agility and to support complex network and multi-cloud environments with flexible usage models.

Anyone wishing to avoid the public Internet can opt for interconnection solutions. These providers offer private WAN networks that can be used to connect to other networks and clouds. A quarter of the respondents in the IDC study regard the main benefits of interconnection services as increased connection security, and 22% cite improved performance and latency compared to going over the Internet.

5) Test your network security and evaluate modern approaches

Given the developments towards cloud, edge computing, and the Internet of Things, the spreading of internal networks, or at least internal data flows, to external networks and IT environments is unavoidable. The once stable, physical perimeter that could be secured with central firewalls or VPN gateways is turning into a web of customer and service provider IT infrastructures that communicates with the outside world via a variety of APIs and connections. Therefore, you need to rethink how your network is protected.

Zero trust is currently a hot topic and is recommended by IDC. Zero trust is not a ready-made solution, but an approach that is implemented by combining various security solutions and configurations. Software-defined perimeter (SDP) uses virtualization technology and, like other software-defined solutions, separates the network technology from the higher-level network services. Users interact purely with the application layer and the underlaying network technology is invisible to hackers. Another approach is secure access service edge (SASE). SASE is a new architecture model and combines network and security services based in the cloud. Accordingly, SASE can be used as a ready-made solution, mostly as a modular platform.

Another important aspect related to network security is security automation and analytics. The huge rise in the number of APIs, peripheral devices, network connections, and security guidelines will be impossible to monitor manually in the future, and a lot of attacks are so subtle that traditional security solutions are scarcely able to identify them. The automated processing and categorizing of as many security notifications as possible, the detection of anomalies in network traffic, and network-wide security analysis of all incidents to discover relationships and well concealed attacks are therefore all the more important.

Download the IDC executive brief

To dig deeper into these five recommendations and to learn more about the survey results, download the executive brief from IDC “Enterprise networks 2022: Connectivity-Driven Business in Germany” in English or in German.