Why does New Technology Fill CIOs with Anxiety and Uncertainty?
By James Parker, Chief Revenue Officer, Tata Communications
Whenever a new technology emerges that challenges the way people and businesses have been doing things for years or even decades, the initial excitement is soon over-shadowed by uncertainty, anxiety, and reluctance to try something new. The CIO, rest of senior management, the IT department, and the teams and lines of business who would be impacted by the new technology are all likely to wonder why change is needed, if the current solution is working just fine.
It’s understandable that the CIO and his peers, who are ultimately accountable if the new solution doesn’t live up its promise would be apprehensive about embracing a new, untried, and untested technology. But, over time, following much consideration, assessment, and consultation with experts, this uncertainty and apprehension tends to subside.
When it comes to enterprise networking, SD-WAN is one technology that has many CIOs on the fence at the moment. Yet, it is expected to reach the Plateau of Productivity in only a few years–which means that forward looking enterprises should start planning their move to this emerging technology now to make sure they won’t be playing catch-up with their more agile competitors later. While it might be tempting to sit tight, early movers in SD-WAN will have the advantage, and any arguments for not taking the plunge with the technology can be easily rebuked.
If It isn’t Broken...
As enterprise bandwidth demands continue to grow, it is becoming prohibitively expensive for the CIO to continue adding more and more dedicated network capacity for their private WAN. On the other hand, as network traffic continues on its upward trajectory, congestion is likely to have a detrimental effect on end-user experience, leading to jitter and lag when accessing cloud-based applications. And, as technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, cognitive computing, artificial intelligence, and real-time data analytics become more and more widely adopted, network congestion will worsen. So, simply sticking to the way things have been done for years won’t work in the long term.
Instead, more and more CIOs are realising the benefits of hybrid enterprise networks, which combine the scalability of the public Internet with the reliability and security of a private WAN. These hybrid networks and SD-WAN are a perfect match.
The benefits that SD-Wan can bring to hybrid enterprise networks should far outweigh any uncertainty that CIOs might feel
I Don’t Want to be the Guinea Pig...
Adopting an untried technology takes guts. It can be risky and some CIOs and organisations are more risk-averse than others. Having said that, I actually wouldn’t advise any enterprise with thousands of employees to deploy SD-WAN immediately across all geographies.
The best, least daunting, and least risky approach is to start with a small implementation first. And, of course, the CIO should ask their SD-WAN supplier for case studies and customer references to get insights into how the specific solution has performed in the real world to-date, and help avoid potential pitfalls with the deployment.
The Cost Will Spiral...
Rolling out a nascent technology that hasn’t been widely adopted yet can come with certain surprises, including unanticipated or even hidden costs. To help keep the budget in check, the CIO should work hand-in-glove with the SD-WAN provider from the start to plan the circuit design and associated costs. This includes forecasting for any areas such as connectivity, capacity or equipment which might require extra spend.
Still, the beauty of SD-WAN is that it reduces the need for hardware significantly, which in turn reduces costs too, as functions such as firewalls and WAN optimisation can become virtualised. Furthermore, rather than a costly rip-and-replace approach, often there is scope to use the enterprise’s existing IP router footprint for some of the SD-WAN deployment. This helps keep the budget in check too.
Take the Leap
The benefits that SD-WAN can bring to hybrid enterprise networks should far outweigh any uncertainty that CIOs might feel.
It gives the CIO unprecedented freedom to deploy new applications across the enterprise, and complete visibility and control over each application. This not only enhances the user experience as congestion on the network is minimised, but also empowers the enterprise to expand into new markets more easily and launch new services more quickly, with their network as the new digital foundation for growth.
As more and more SD-WAN platforms become available, the cost of adopting this technology will become more attractive for CIOs looking to future-proof their network too. Furthermore, thanks to its virtualised functions, SD-WAN enables a pay-as-you-go approach to global networking. This means that the CIO is able to scale capacity up and down depending on fluctuations in market conditions and business needs.
All of these changes to the network set-up can be automated with SD-WAN, while enabling the CIO to orchestrate the different moving parts of the enterprise network with simplicity and security. In contrast, traditional WANs can be complex and costly to manage, especially when new sites or users need to be added, or policies need to be changed. Often this complexity can lead to a poor user experience too.
A decade or so ago, there was a lot of uncertainty around the positive impact of cloud computing and reluctance to adopt it, but today most CIOs see it as fundamental to their enterprise. Apprehension and reluctance has given way to cloud-first IT strategies cloud-powered digital transformation programmes, leveraging the Internet of Things, real-time analytics and artificial intelligence. As the break-neck speed of technology innovation continues and as SD-WAN moves towards the Plateau of Productivity, even risk-averse enterprises should recognise the business and technology benefits it brings and take the leap before their competitors beat them to it.