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What is software defined network transformation


Software-defined networking promises a revolution in how we can more easily automate, manage and future-proof the network.  Which will deliver the speed and agility that the business requires.

This is why while choosing great technology is mandatory to success, equally important is considering how the vendor will support you.  Not just classic maintenance, but throughout the lifecycle of the network refresh, from pre-deployment professional services to technical implementation, training and ongoing maintenance and support. 

In this way, your vendor will be your partner, providing a “guiding hand” to support operational changes, bridge skills gaps, meet security challenges and assure business outcomes. And provide ongoing support you throughout your infrastructure lifecycle.  In short, offering all the services you need to ensure your project is successful.  

Don’t keep doing the same thing again and hoping it will work

You’ve got teams of people sat there, manually configuring boxes. Scrolling through log files trying to troubleshoot a bug. Patching and updating hardware. It all takes so long… and, of course, time is money.  Which is why network costs are like an iceberg. You can easily see the invoice for the switches and cabling, but in fact the vast majority of the money you spend on your network is not in buying hardware and software — it’s in running costs.  In fact Mckinsey estimates that companies spend 3 times more in network operation than in the network itself.1

Thankfully, technology innovations are emerging to help ease the strain, like software-defined access.  Re-thinking the network promises to slash the cost of managing your infrastructure. Some tasks that used to take hours or days you can perform in minutes. Customers trialing Cisco SD-Access cut OpEx by 61% and reduced time to provision by 67%. 

Success depends on more than just technology

You can’t make step-change efficiencies like these simply by refining the status quo. Shifting to an intent-based software-defined network is not just a hardware update. It is a fundamentally different approach to the network models you’ve always known.

It may seem like a steep learning curve. Get it right though, and the rewards will be worth it.  The smart way to ensure success is to choose a partner who can support you with services to enable this step change.  

How do I get the best possible outcomes to support my business and its users?

All eyes are on IT teams to deliver the outcomes that matter to the business: improved availability and cost, naturally, but also speed, risk management, and agility. The right services partner is critical to helping IT keep its promises to the business.

77% of organizations we surveyed said it was very important that their IT provider addresses business priorities, not just technology issues, with practical solutions. And three quarters said that automation and predictive services were the most appealing services innovations for their organizations.

Which is why when you are looking at your SD-Access options, having assurance of the services to support you are just as important as every other consideration from cost to technical capability.  You need a partner that really understands the change you need to make, inside out, and can offer you best practice recommendations to help you get to your future state operating model faster and with much less stress along the way.

I can’t afford for my IT services provider to let me down

When you choose to work with a company day-in, day-out, it matters that they are there for you and live up to your values. It’s about trust and following through on your promises.

At Cisco, we recognize that moving to an automated software-defined approach to the network needs more than just the best technical solution.  This also requires advisory services to help with your strategy, roadmap and design.

For example Cisco’s DNA Advisory includes strategy development, an assessment and an interactive working session, to develop a roadmap with recommendations tailored to your specific business and technology needs. Services such as SD-Access Design can help reduce expensive rework during the design phase. Our experts will identify the required architecture, technology and features early in the lifecycle.

And of course security needs to be top of your agenda, so support to create a strategic plan for your security segmentation is also a must. Going beyond typical network considerations, to identify critical parameters that define security zones within your environment.

It is also important to consider your operational readiness. Including organisation, staffing and skills, process and policy, metrics and tooling.

Which leads us to people.

My team lacks the skills and resources we need

From CEO down, the “skills gap” is a constant source of pain. You need your vendor not just to provide technology or to place unskilled junior engineers on-site to do the grunt work. Instead, you need access to real expertise and assistance, to complete projects and help you transform your operations.

In our research, 69% of organizations said they expected IT services to fill key skills gaps, and 77% said it was “very important” when choosing an IT services provider that they get access to experience and knowledge they don't have internally.

Your network managers and administrators will need to understand and have confidence and the right skills to manage a network in a new way. So as well as working alongside you during the project, and being there for you at the end of the phone for support, you need your vendor to also offer training services to get your teams ready for a new era of networking.

These activities, and the follow-on work around training and process design, can all happen in parallel with the solution design and validation, implementation and testing on the technical side of the project.

How do I take the first step?

We have created a specific services package SD-Access Operations Planning which is designed to answer all the questions you might have at the outset of your project.

This includes an on-site discovery workshop bringing together all your functional teams to look at your current process maturity, define your future-state in the world of SD-Access, and identify any gaps. And this can be combined with further workshops to explore specific areas of network operations including incident management, availability management, and change management.

When we come back to you with our conclusions, we take a holistic view of your operating model from a perspective grounded in ITIL and DevOps practices. We look at people, process, metrics and tooling together.

What you get is not only strategy recommendations about changes you need to make, but the in-depth guidance you need to put those recommendations into practice. That includes process documentation templates, roles and responsibilities matrices, organisational charts, training templates, example metrics and other useful assets. 

What about post-deployment what happens then?

When your network is so critical to the running of your business, it’s vital that it delivers consistent performance and availability. Outages can be massively damaging.   One important aspect is selecting a partner you have confidence can support you with the right technical services.

Of course, a smoothly running network builds on a foundation of sound design principles and operational practices, but no matter how good your design, the unexpected still happens: whether it’s a complex configuration bug or a hardware failure. In these situations, it’s critical that you get the support you need to solve the problem and recover service fast.

Your vendor should naturally have fast response times, take ownership of your issue even in complex hardware and software environments involving multiple vendors, and know your environment inside and out. But today, the best services organisations use analytics and automation to get ahead of the curve. Predictive services like our Business Critical Services and High-value Services can spot potential problems before they start to affect network service delivery, alert you, and even fix the issue — for instance, with a patch or configuration change — automatically. The result is better network availability and less stress for you and your team.

You’ve got it covered

Approach your migration in the right way, with the right support, and it’s nothing to fear. Be wary of shortcuts. Be honest about your current state of readiness. Be holistic in your assessments, including people and process as well as technology. Embrace a helping hand from someone that’s seen it all before. Then you’ll be prepared to ride the digital wave with a truly intuitive network.

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