For most of human history, people lived in an incremental world. Society advanced through a step-by-step accumulation of new ideas; progress was defined by a gradual improvement in living standards as tasks that once consumed most of our time became routine.
But something remarkable has happened in our lifetimes. Change that once took decades now happens in weeks, days, or even seconds. Capabilities that we only dreamed about a few years ago have fundamentally changed how we work and connect with each other.
We’re moving from an incremental world to one where things happen on an exponential scale. What used to be millions of customers, millions of devices and millions of transactions is now in the billions. Today, there are now 6 billion cell phone subscriptions in use around the globe. And, Facebook recently topped 1 billion users.
So, what does this mean?
We are now conducting business in a world where exponential scale means infinite possibilities.
Juniper recently commissioned Forrester Consulting to survey senior IT leaders to better understand how this exponential scale driven by mega trends like big data, cloud and mobile computing are helping companies capitalize on new business opportunities and to understand the impact they are having on enterprise networks.
The reality is there are major technology demands on corporate networks that are bubbling to the surface:
44% of businesses have seen increased use of cloud services – from software and infrastructure to business processes as-a-service offerings.
58% say cloud computing had a significant impact on their network (which required hardware upgrade/refresh of network).
53% of respondents say the business is turning to IT to capture more data to make better business decisions.
More than half (52%) of businesses are grappling with data storage needs brought on by company growth.
In the last 18 months, 47% of businesses have seen increased demand from end users to bring their own devices to work.
When ranking IT initiatives for the next 12 months, 72% of IT business decision-makers put expanding use of mobile apps for employees, customers, and business partners at the top of their list.
No longer are IT pressures unseen or underreported. In fact, these changes are too big to ignore.
As the mobile Internet brings billions of new devices online, cloud computing puts unimaginable computing power in the hands of anyone with a basic Internet connection, and the processing demands of big data mean that even the fastest computing systems today are sure to be inadequate tomorrow. Forrester’s survey found this relentless increase is about to run up against the constraints of a limited resource – the capacity of the networks that connect everything together.
Today’s networks have reached a critical inflection point.
Exponential growth in the billions is part of it. Exhausted infrastructure is also a major factor, as our networks are simply not designed to keep up with today’s business needs. But our attempt to play catch-up is only hampering our business agility. In fact, 74% of businesses reported that their network was complex and 35% said it was rigid to manage.
Forrester also found 86% of companies have not been able to provision new services or support business demands because their networks weren't up to the task. Further, 64% of respondents said the influx of big data, users bringing their own devices, and employees leveraging 3rd party applications, such as streaming video or e-mail services, hampered in some way their ability to provision new business services.
So while we may be poised to make the leap to a world of infinite possibilities, today businesses face an urgent problem – the systems and networks that will make exponential scale possible are strained to a breaking point.
So, where does that leave us?
By adding to the same old networks, businesses are building a system of systems that becomes less efficient as more resources are added. This creates complexity, decreases performance, and raises costs, all without delivering new interconnections that customers and partners really need. We’re reaching the point where the effectiveness of legacy networks is inversely proportional to the volume of information they contain and the power of the resources that they make available.
In this age of exponential scale, interconnection is as important as processing power.
As a CIO, I am left grappling with the reality that mobility, cloud and big data have pushed networks to a breaking point that mandates a new set of principles for aligning network infrastructure with business strategy. I hope you’ll join me today as we explore what’s required for IT professionals to effectively build for the next billion. We’ll discuss the challenges we’re facing and, more importantly, begin to rethink the industry’s approach to networking.