Digital transformation is more than raw bandwidth 

There’s no shortage of statistics acknowledging the scale of the challenge posed by global consumption of data, and they are all pretty daunting. The latest Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2016–2021 predicts that business IP traffic will grow at a CAGR of 21% from 2016 to 2021, with increased adoption of video communications responsible for a significant chunk of that traffic.

But it’s the enterprise shift to web-based applications and Software as a Service (SaaS) that’s really driving the bandwidth demand. The Cisco report highlights that business internet traffic will grow at more than double the pace of IP WAN (defined by Cisco as IP traffic that doesn’t leave the WAN).

Yet despite the fact that internet applications are significant, and in some cases a dominant part of enterprise IT, they do not account for the totality of traffic and will not for the foreseeable future. This means hybrid infrastructure will continue to be the norm, driving increased demand for both private WAN and internet/cloud connectivity simultaneously, and in the latter case, connectivity into multiple clouds.

This speaks to the complex nature of digital transformation. The criticality of global interconnection to this requirement of parallel access to on premises infrastructure and cloud-hosted services, stresses the vital importance of the network for survival.

According to The Global Interconnection Index, published by Equinix in 2017: “As business models become increasingly distributed and dependent on the real-time engagement of many more users, partners and service providers, a company’s ability to transform into a digital business has become a matter of survival,” the study warns.

Equinix defines interconnection bandwidth for the digitally transforming businesses as the total capacity provisioned to privately and directly exchange traffic with a diverse set of counterparties and providers at distributed IT exchange points. It’s this diversity of ecosystems and exchange points that is key.

The multi-infrastructure design approach businesses are pursuing puts the focus on one constant infrastructure component that needs to be efficiently architected – connectivity. An important consideration is that when it comes to connectivity, raw capacity is not always enough. The quality or features of the connectivity also play a role. For example, Unified Communications (UC) services now common in many organisations, have features that are very sensitive to latency and jitter. These are metrics that reflect the performance of the network, and are therefore impacted by a traffic-laden network. Ultimately, a busy network will negatively affect the quality of a UC service.

So in combination, the need to provide connectivity for increased internet application usage and remote access, as well as guaranteeing adequate application performance, puts a huge strain on the network.

What’s clear is that multiple ecosystems will need to be interconnected for business of all kinds to remain competitive and this will likely be via a complex, hybrid infrastructure for the foreseeable future. It is to this end that businesses must consider not just sheer bandwidth, but intelligent connectivity that matches the requirements of the application it supports. Specialist connectivity providers like Colt are able to provide a menu of connectivity options to suit the use case, based on requirements like resilience, capacity, latency, security or price, among many others.

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