Six Technologies to Master for the Future of Communications Technologies
Working smarter, not harder, will be the key to successful businesses.
By Scott Murphy
VP of Strategic Business Development,
Data Perceptions Inc.
Published May 2023
Businesses are developing at a rapidly increasing pace. They are shrinking their real estate footprint, and the hybrid workforce is becoming an accepted standard. The trend towards a borderless business is accelerating, where customers and employees can be anywhere worldwide. Businesses and employees are innovating and challenging the status quo. These global trends are challenging IT operations and forcing businesses to invest in the next generation of systems, applications, and security to simplify and accelerate operations to enable them to stay competitive. How is a business going to manage these changes? Here are six key technological components that will be necessary and how communications technology pros will have to use them.
Managing these global trends will require IT to engage differently with the organization it serves. IT teams will need to embrace and understand business requirements and processes, with the goal of digitally transforming the organization through automation. IT and business units will need to accept change and innovate at an advanced rate to enable them to stay competitive in the global economy.
Digital transformation will span applications, data, networks and systems, and cyber security tools. IT will need to understand how Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools can be used to automate workflows. At the same time, they will need to be cognizant of the limitations and risks that these advanced tools present.
Cloud applications will be key to success for most businesses. Cloud applications will enable IT departments to deploy new functionality faster but will require business units to accept changes to operations to enable innovation.
Cloud applications are expanding, so most required workflows can be automated without customization. They will enable businesses to find applications that can automate operations for every team within the organization – no one needs to be left behind. These solutions tend to be standardized but can enable significant levels of configuration and integration to suit the business’ workflow needs.
Cloud applications are often linked to an ecosystem of other applications that simplifies integration and workflow. Ecosystems of applications can significantly reduce silos of information and data duplication to improve operations across business functions.
Application selection and configuration needs to become a core competency of IT teams to support the accelerating change within the organization.
The explosion of cloud applications has also led to an explosion of data. This can benefit or be a challenge for business operations.
The explosion of data can lead to better insights into business operations, but only when the organization has a strategy to deploy data analytics solutions across the data sets. Data analytics insights can lead to better decisions, but more importantly, they can lead to changing behaviours within the organization and during customer interactions.
The key to success here is identifying the use cases that can derive value. Analytics is only as good as the use cases it is based upon – ask the wrong questions, and you get the wrong answers.
Another key technology to help you manage data's exponential growth is a cloud-based data lake service (e.g., Microsoft Synapse). Data lake services enable data analytics teams to centralize data access and automate data extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) more efficiently into the data lake. This will accelerate data analytics projects and get business units the answers they require faster.
Cloud-based data lakes can also enable businesses to take advantage of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions with ease. AI/ML can help identify questions and answers that cannot be identified easily by humans alone. Not all AI/ML outcomes or tools are created equally, so be careful how they are used. They can accidentally leak your data or incorporate outside data that may not be as trustworthy. Again -- answers derived from data are only as good as the source – garbage in, garbage out. Due diligence is still required.
Networks and Systems
Automation of networks and systems has been a trend for over a decade, but it is now accelerating as they become more cost-effective and available. Cloud-based infrastructure (IaaS) has become easier to automate with software-defined (SD) networks and systems. Most providers have enabled declarative state operations (e.g., BICEP); simply declare the end state of the network and systems – the automation systems handle the rest.
This is becoming true for the on-premises network and systems. Cloud IaaS providers are extending their software-defined management systems to on-premises networks and systems (e.g., Azure HCI). This enables an organization to manage on-premises and cloud infrastructure from one management tool. This will extend the capabilities of your IT staff and enable them to automate deployment, scalability, reliability, and infrastructure recovery.
Beyond the data center, automation is expanding to the network closet as fabric-configured networks are pushing out to the edge. Fabric networks are automating configuration based on the devices that are being plugged into the network. Automation is setting access and security based on policies to streamline changes and improve the overall reliability and security of the network. This can reduce human error and accelerate deployments.
Automation is also expanding into global networks. Automation enables private global networks using technologies such as SD-WAN and SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) to optimize wide-area networks over the Internet. These networks can be application-aware and prioritize applications based on policies and improve the reliability of the WAN with mesh technologies, redundant connections, and automated best path determination.
These trends will start to shift networks and systems from expenses to strategic assets for the business.
Cyber security has been a challenge for businesses, and the problem is growing. Trying to stay ahead of the bad guys has become increasingly challenging. The silver lining is that automation tools are becoming more readily available to enable cyber security staff to protect, detect, and respond to intrusion incidents using ML and AI technologies. These tools are cloud-based solutions and include SEIM, SOAR, and SASE-type solution categories.
Similarly, cloud automation uses ML and AI technologies to move toward a zero-trust architecture for access to applications and data. Cloud automation can evaluate the risk of every access to data or systems based on the compliance of the user, device, network, location, and configuration in real-time.
This real-time analysis of access can be integrated across the organization’s application ecosystem. It does require a new level of due diligence with any new SaaS provider. Ensuring that the provider has the integration tools and appropriate infrastructure during onboarding will enable cyber security staff to automate the reduction of risks to the organization.
The opportunity for businesses is that this looks like a cyber security inflection point. Cyber security staff can use automation to mitigate risks, hunt for threats, and improve staff productivity more effectively.
These next-generation systems automation trends will simplify operations and allow businesses to function more effectively. Businesses can be empowered by a borderless business strategy to access employees and customers anywhere in the world while providing access to the tools needed to operate effectively. Businesses that challenge the status quo, embrace innovation, and employ automation will become leaders in their sector!