Digital transformation to be defined by "softening networks"

Digital transformation to be defined by "softening networks"
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Luc Serviant, of Orange Business Services, believes SD-WAN adoption in the Middle East will increase with growing appreciation

SD-WAN is creating new possibilities for businesses in the Middle East. With adoption currently following global trends, Luc Serviant, vice president Middle East and Africa, Orange Business Services, believes this can only increase as understanding of SD WAN grows in the region.

The global economy is picking up according to the IMF, with some 120 economies, (or three quarters of the world’s GDP) growing in 2017; it’s the strongest performance since 2010 and looks set to continue for the next two years.

With the positive signals around the world economy, companies are looking for fast expansion and growth into new regional markets, including the Middle East, where the UAE is rising up the global economic competitiveness ranking (now seventh in the world in 2018, according to the IMD World Competitiveness Center).

Oil and gas firms, retailers and logistics companies have a regular need to set up new and sometimes temporary operations, from exploration sites to retail pop-up stores to test consumer response. SD-WAN provides these organisations with the speed, agility, flexibility and bandwidth they need to seize these business opportunities through collaboration and innovation.

When it comes to the digital transformation of industry (Industry 4.0), the service sector’s increasingly intimate personal relationship with customers and the exciting cognitive smart city developments we see across the region, the network really is everything. It’s the network that provides the tracks along which the apps and data flow but it’s getting complex with hybrid cloud and other options multiplying the possibilities and also the complexities.

This is the point at which we see the future of the network turning soft – with software defined networks such as SD-WAN creating new possibilities to accelerate the innovation we need to achieve the region’s economic visions and increase flexibility for expansion, facilitate mergers and acquisitions, simplify the journey of the customer IT manager and reduce costs and complexity.

Our partner Riverbed Technology’s recent regional survey showed that Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) adoption in the Middle East is following the global trend, with nearly 50% of enterprises already having initial discussions around its adoption and 78% of organisations agreeing that SD-WAN will be a critical part of their network infrastructure within the next five years.

For those regional survey respondents, the top benefits of SD-WAN were increased application and network visibility and security (56%); reduction in complexity of network configuration and increased utilisation of resources (50%).

As understanding and appreciation of SD WAN grows in the region, so will its adoption. And we believe the adoption of SD WAN and the opportunity of ‘Network as a Service’ is one of the most important factors in successful digital transformation across the regional economy and in overcoming some of the legacy challenges it faces.

A great example is Siemens AG, the global electronics and electrical engineering company, which is already building its global ‘Siemens Digitalization Network’ (SDN) on an SD-WAN infrastructure, connecting 1,500 sites in 94 countries.

The increased performance of its communications infrastructure will enable Siemens to take full advantage of further digitalisation to improve its Industry 4.0 processes.

Siemens is migrating its entire global infrastructure to a SD-WAN network, which will connect cloud applications as well as IoT devices, to meet the demands on the Siemens WAN with virtual teams and teleworkers collaborating on global projects. Coincidentally, Siemens is also developing its global logistics headquarters in Dubai.

One potential barrier to adoption is the complexity of multiple ISPs – some larger enterprises can have over 100 internet and telecom contracts, for example, which may vary dramatically in terms of service level agreements (SLAs), incident management and reporting, among others.

Critically, SD-WAN is a technology that allows you to combine networks from multiple internet service providers and telcos into one single service, supported by the multisourcing service integration (MSI) route, which can eliminate all of this complexity.

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) is a key driver of growth and according to Deloitte’s The State of the Deal 2018 report, technology acquisition is now the number one driver for M&A and acquiring new digital capabilities accounts for a third of deals being chased.

Deal-making enterprises need their IT platforms to be more flexible and agile to rapidly capitalise on these market opportunities and SD-WAN can help them meet this need.

According to PwC’s 2018 Middle East CEO survey, 56% of CEOs are looking to strategic alliances or joint ventures in the next 12 months to drive corporate growth and profitability.

Whether entities are merging, separating, being acquired, or simply expanding to greenfield locations, it is the application and business requirements that should drive connectivity design and implementation strategies.

SD-WAN offers the ability to meet these needs, providing the next-generation network that enterprises need to support rapid digitisation while giving secure access to the cloud-based applications employees need to deliver the innovation and best possible customer experience.

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