The digital business era is here, and it’s changing the business landscape faster than ever. Businesses that embrace digital transformation are more profitable and quickly become market leaders, while those that don’t risk falling behind and becoming irrelevant. This is why digital transformation has become a top mandate for almost every IT and business leader. The ZK Research IT Priorities Survey found that 90% of businesses currently have digital transformation initiatives underway (Exhibit 1), up from 84% last year.
Historically, the network edge has been considered of low importance. It connected workers’ computers, printers and a few other devices to the main network, but most user data and applications resided on computers. The network was used to periodically fetch new information or to support “best effort” services, such as email. In this scenario, the access edge played a role of base connectivity and was considered to be of low value. Today, the role of the access edge is completely different and should be considered mission critical.
These are the top factors driving up the value of the access edge:
Almost all applications are networked.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is now mainstream.
The use of sensors and beacons has grown.
WiFi has become pervasive.
Security is shifting to the access edge.
The evolution of the access edge is the single biggest change in networking in decades, as it is an entirely new operational and architectural model. An access edge is designed specifically for digital businesses and will bring a level of dynamism never seen before to the edge as well as enable it to have the same level of agility as other areas of IT. Consequently, the network will no longer be the bottleneck that holds organizations back.
An access edge is designed specifically for digital businesses and will bring a level of dynamism never seen before to the edge as well as enable it to have the same level of agility as other areas of IT.
Key criteria for the new access edge include the following:
Unified management of wired and wireless.
Integrated threat defense.
Single pane of glass management.
Machine learning (ML)–based intelligence.
Intent-based networking (IBN).
Recently, Cisco upgraded its widely deployed Catalyst line of access switches and added new line of Catalyst Access Points and Wireless Controllers. The new Catalyst 9000 family delivers on the vision of intent-based networking with some advanced features today, but it also provides a path to a fully autonomous network in the future.
The digital transformation era is here, and businesses need to adapt to survive. Today, competitive advantage is based on a company’s ability to be agile, adapt to changes and make rapid shifts to capture market transitions. Most of the digital-enabling technologies—such as IoT, cloud and mobility—are network centric, which raises the value of the network, particularly the access edge. If the business is to harness the full potential of these technologies, the access edge must evolve, with the first step being implementing a unified edge. Shifting to a unified access network needs to be top of mind for CIOs today, as it is the foundation for digital transformation.
Read the full research document here.
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