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On demand: The changing face of business

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An increasing number of businesses are now using the cloud to consume and deliver applications and services from the likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google for Business. But not all businesses are new, so enterprises typically have some “born in the cloud” apps, mixed with a more cumbersome application legacy, which is less straightforward to manage in a cloud configuration.

It’s tempting to think that despite the transition from analogue to digital networks and cloud constructs, the fundamentals of multi-site networks have not changed. But this isn’t the case–certainly in terms of functionality, but also in the emergence of new operational capabilities and requirements. In fact, network managers are cultivating an entirely new skill set, and it’s one that’s not just technical, but also plays to an entirely different business model.

Given the increasingly critical nature of business cloud apps, a reliable and secure network connection is essential, and as technology facilitates  a more ‘service-on-demand’ culture, networks must provide different flavours of connectivity, speeds, and resilience on tap.

Given the unpredictable experience of the public internet, hybrid solutions have become the dominant trend, linking customer on-site facilities with publicly-hosted capacity via private networking. This approach delivers the security, latency, performance and reliability which their applications need and permits the enterprise to manage all their applications in an optimum way.

In terms of management, there’s one technology causing a significant shift in terms of business model–SDN (Software Defined Networking). Once a customer has brought their service onto the network, they can enjoy sophisticated self-provisioning of new cloud services, and can typically manage the bandwidth allocations themselves, no carrier involved.

For example, a customer who already has an EC2 instance over Direct Connect on Amazon can add another testing and development instance without needing to go via the carrier. So the flexibility of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is not limited by networking obstacles.

It used to be that a service request from a customer would cause a flurry of activity in the data centre or the NOC, in terms of employees doing manual jobs.  But when the customer has the capability to change how they work with the network, there’s more interaction from the customer into the network, and it’s less people intensive activity. It’s a game changer in the sense that the customer can think: “Okay, I want do this tonight, I want to do this tomorrow,” and because at Colt we offer different flavours of network connectivity and speeds, as well as resilience, the network becomes more of a variable cost and becomes a tool that you use based on your business needs at the time, with you the customer having much more direct control.

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