When March rolls around, and a hint of Spring is in the air, a little basketball tournament weighs heavily on the minds of even the best employees (and your organization’s enterprise network). Brackets are carefully contemplated, completed, dwelled upon, and then filled out again. And then the games start streaming, on desktops and laptops, mobile phones, and personal tablets.
It’s at that time when the support team at CBTS begins to get calls from clients. That little event is draining their enterprise network, bringing it to its knees. And we heard that again, loud and clear, from business and technology leaders recently at our CIO Summit in New York City.
Luckily, today’s enterprise network technology can help CIOs and their teams live up to the tournament challenge.
I’ll get back to that in a moment, but let’s first talk about what’s on the minds of the CIOs who were in the room with us in NYC.
Q: Moderator, Lane Cooper: From an architectural perspective, we’ve wrestled through the big eras from the mainframe to the client/server environment to cloud. We’ve tackled client/server sprawl and have worked on managing applications and key resources spread across different platforms and cloud environments. So, from your perspective, what are the biggest challenges you’re facing versus a few years back?
A: CIO Participant: Everyone has a higher level of expectation, and at the same time, everyone is working from everywhere. The expectation is, “Hey, if I can get Netflix on a plane at 35,000 feet in the air, why can’t I get my email address to work at a specific offsite location?”
Q: CIO Participant: The expectation for everything IT related is just more. We’re in the middle of a cloud migration. We’re going from on-prem systems to Azure. Azure is 13 milliseconds away. It’s pretty close, but still, it’s 13x what it used to be. The data center is in Middletown, N.J., and the office is in Midtown. And we’re pulling an application from the middle of Aurora, IL, about 1,000 miles away. We’ve increased our bandwidth and pulled elements out of the network to streamline the path, but it’s a bit slower, and our employees expect more. How do you address problems like these in today’s evolving networks?
A: Jon Lloyd, CBTS: Many companies today have a 40 or 80 Gbps backbone in their data center or even 100 Gigabit. The data link layer and the physical layer used to be just a millisecond away. With the cloud, you might have a 100 Gigabit backbone but only get 20 or 50 Megabit internet connectivity. That’s the challenge we’re trying to solve.
Justin Rice, CBTS: Every use case is different, but we recently worked with a company that has 25 branch locations. They increased the bandwidth at every branch to 100 Mbps. And because they wanted to backhaul all of their internet traffic to their data center, they added bandwidth there, too, to 1 Gbps, but there was still a bottleneck. We were able to go in and look at the performance of applications at each branch and define which were critical and not critical. Trusted applications like Office 365 could be accessed directly from the cloud and did not need to touch the centralized environment. By focusing at a workload level instead of managing traffic on the network and data link levels, we were able to help them create new policies around workloads to improve performance.
Q: CIO Participant: What we’re seeing is more than just being about reliability; it’s about consistency. If a client is getting a response in 2 milliseconds, they expect the next time should not be 10 milliseconds. So every time, whether it’s morning or afternoon, high traffic or low traffic, they want the same experience. How can you help us with consistency?
A: Jon Lloyd, CBTS: The short answer is that there is a difference between the traditional iWAN days with failover of Layer 3 routing and application-aware routing or an IP application SLA. So, we can have multiple links set up as a failover, not saying up or down, but based on performance and what the best path is. The struggle we all deal with is when those hosts leave the network, and they go to an offsite location like Starbucks. I can’t have an edge on that network, and that might cause an issue for an organization since today’s workforce wants that flexibility. Inside the network, some apps are just not made to go to the cloud, and for best performance, they need to live in your data center. Some sites are better off staying on MPLS. Every business case is unique and requires a unique solution. And that’s where we like to get involved at a deeper level with our clients.
Q: CIO Participant: Cybersecurity is essential, and there was a time when my team wasn’t doing anything else. There were clear responsibilities, and we had minimal crossover with what the network administrators were doing. Can you talk about how that is changing and what enterprise IT organizations might look like in the future?
A: Justin Rice, CBTS: It’s definitely worth having a deeper conversation about that. We’re going to get to a world where the application team and the network team are the same team. Now they may have different roles, but they are going to be the same team because networkers are going to be developers, as well. We’re going to get there. The cool part about what we do, with SD-WAN in particular, is now we can start to understand the performance of applications. If you tell me you’re having a challenge with whatever ERP you’re using, I can help troubleshoot. By looking at the application layer, we can determine if there’s an issue with the network, where does that challenge lie, and what we can do to help you fix that challenge. Because now we have that intelligence at the application layer that we really didn’t have before. We had it at some level but over the WAN. Now the network team can start identifying application issues and help remove the barriers between those two organizations.
Q: CIO Participant: We have some specialized voice and specialized data requirements, and still others focused on applications. Are you saying we’re going to see convergence there?
A: Jon Lloyd, CBTS: You’re still going to see specialization. But you’re going to have a business leader within the organization who understands the synergy between the different areas and has a line of sight into how they work together. So, you’re going to have someone who’s in charge of application and also responsible for the network. Voice may not apply to a lot of you in the room who are in the financial industry, with turret systems and complex voice requirements that most organizations don’t have.
Q: CIO Participant: Can you discuss the ways to address technologies that are sideloading? And they cannot talk to one another?
A: Jon Lloyd, CBTS: This is the number one issue our voice team has to deal with. The good news is that for the first time in my career, all of these technologies are coming together. If we look at our story and approach to unified computing and communications, we started with the Cisco UCS, then to BroadCloud and BroadWorks, built WebEx CCA into that, and then the Customer Journey Platform into our voice core. And now we have greater flexibility for implementing WebEx video endpoints, for example, meaning they can be registered to your cluster in the CBTS cloud or the Cisco Cloud. Given the right partner can bring together all of these technologies under a full or hybrid Unified Communications as a Service deployment, IT can drive value for the organization. With a more integrated network strategy, organizations can support collaboration among today’s mobile and remote workers, their partners, and their clients.
Q: CIO Participant: In the case of SDN, have you run into a situation where you’re responsible for putting in the parameters of orchestration to stop things like sporting events? When, for example, you have 200 traders in the UK, all watching the World Cup on TV sets while streaming on their devices, and wondering why the Internet is slow?
A: Jon Lloyd, CBTS: In Cincinnati, we are the ILEC, so we actually have run nearly 12,000 route miles of fiber and are an Internet provider in the Midwest. And we get those same calls every March. Now, lucky for us – I was a University of Cincinnati grad and Justin, here, went to Xavier – that’s only typically the first weekend, so it’s no big deal – but for other cities, it’s a bit longer. I’m glad you find that funny! The big thing with software-defined – Justin talked about our ability to recognize and define applications. In the past, we would have a choice – do I want to restrict the network or restrict the person? We could say, on Wi-Fi, we want to limit it to 2 megs per host. Or, in general, the host can consume as much as they want, but no more than 5 megs on this network. In our world, you can now talk about how we can do it from an applications level – whether source, application, signature, etc., and orchestrate it.
It was great meeting with all of the CIOs and business leaders in NYC. I hope that we were able to answer your questions to help bring your networks to the next level.
The investments enterprise organizations make today in SD-WAN, NaaS, and UCaaS ensure enterprise network resources are available consistently, securely, and cost-effectively to give employees the flexibility they need to perform at their best.
Speaking of performance, good luck to all of you with a tournament bracket in your hands! And be sure to give CBTS a call when you want to get your enterprise network ready for FIFA Women’s World Cup, Wimbledon, Champions League playoffs, or the MLB World Series.