Enterprise Networking: Companies Are Lacking In Networking

Businesses today face a growing mountain of challenges. Many problems exist because the technological possibilities for collaboration are not exhausted. Enterprise networking as the basis for connectivity in the company can improve its resilience and business continuity.

According to the new study “Enterprise Networks 2022: Connectivity-driven Business” by IDC, three out of ten respondents rate their company’s IT networking as inadequate. The obstacles are legacy-heavy, too little integration, and too many silos.

Two-thirds of those surveyed see a major or very major challenge in realising business projects that depend on connectivity.

Network security is now being taken seriously: three-quarters of the companies have already implemented modern approaches such as ZTNA and SASE or are planning to introduce them within the next twelve months.

For the study “Enterprise Networks 2022: Connectivity-driven Business”, IDC surveyed 150 organisations with more than 250 employees across industries in June 2022 on enterprise networking. The overall impression of the study results is mixed because the majority of those surveyed revealed major weaknesses in networking their own systems and in networking with partners and customers. Although IDC’s most recent study on this topic indicated much greater progress, many of the companies surveyed could not meet the goals they had set themselves. This is, of course, due to the economic situation, among other things, but internal company weaknesses, above all complexity and a lack of technology adaptation, are also among the causes.

Critical Self-Assessment On The Implementation Of Enterprise Networking

“From IDC’s point of view, the current state of networking in companies is extremely questionable,” explains project manager Marco Becker, Senior Consultant at IDC. Especially for general networking across the entire IT landscape, 30 percent of those surveyed indicated “minimal networking” as the lowest level on a five-stage maturity scale. This is defined by an almost exclusive legacy operation, minimal integration, and maximum isolation of business processes and data. Another 21 percent are at the second-lowest level of “limited connectivity,” where new technologies are interspersed, and integrations between related systems exist.

Only 23 percent are at the high level of proactive and comprehensive enterprise networking, characterised by strong cloud adaptation and central, uniform data models, which are ideally also ready to use AI/ML for real-time business decisions. Consequently, a total of 67 percent state that the realisation of business projects that depend on connectivity is a major or even very major challenge for them. However, many companies are aware of these deficits. In 24 months, a proud 42 percent see themselves at the two best maturity levels.

Enterprise Networking Requires Urgent Action

In the opinion of IDC, measures are urgently needed, especially concerning customers and supply chains. Because if the networking of customer relationship processes is poor, sales suffer, and if there is no networking with partners and supply chains, business continuity suffers. In supply chains, the ability to network for data exchange and collaboration is increasingly becoming a prerequisite for successful and efficient cooperation.

Technology Adaptation And Meeting Business Expectations

The complexity of today’s network environments is revealed in the current challenges for 2022 and 2023. These are primarily technologically dominated. The top 3 topics include:

  • Cloud/multi-cloud migration and connectivity (28 percent).
  • The integration of new access and network technologies (27 percent).
  • Connectivity between branches (22 percent).

Implementing more visualised, scalable and adaptable networks (19 percent) and correspondingly more flexible usage models (21 percent) that keep pace with cloud adaptation are also frequently mentioned topics.

In addition to the pure network challenges, general connectivity challenges were also recorded. The networks play an important, but not exclusive, role here because connectivity is the result of an interaction between different IT areas: The dominant factor here is the adaptation of IT and network capabilities to business expectations (38 percent), followed by the integration of new technologies such as IoT and cloud (33 percent) and general data growth (32 percent).

Efficient Response To Network Disturbances

A look at day-to-day business, i.e., network operations, is questionable. Aspects such as the acquisition of network specialists, training, a lack of time for strategic tasks due to operational expenses, or a lack of technological support are critical problem areas for around a quarter of those surveyed. At the same time, 64 percent say that responding quickly and efficiently to disruptions is a major or very major challenge for them. The same applies to promptly adapting the network environment to new business projects or applications. When it comes to NetOps, there is clear potential for improvement. This is also reflected in the integration of the networking teams with other teams such as security, application development, or LoB networks such as OT networks: Only around half of those surveyed indicated a high degree of integration. However, around 10 percent are planning an improvement over the next two years.

SDN Could Be The De Facto Standard In Five Years

In their efforts to improve connectivity, the most important IT technology investment areas, according to the respondents, are currently 5G (32 percent), cloud/multi-cloud (29 percent), and big data/analytics/AI/ML (29 percent), closely followed by SDN technologies and network security. In particular, the topic of 5G has increased significantly compared to the last few years due to its market maturity and has pushed Big Data/Analytics/AI/ML from the top. But the topic of SDN is also important: 65 percent already consider SDN a critical network technology, and just as many assume that SDN will already be the de facto standard for network environments in 5 years.

Substantial network investments are mainly made in cloud-based solutions, such as Interconnect and Network-as-a-Service (NaaS). For a quarter of the respondents, the advantages of NaaS are, in particular, the higher reliability and better reaction to disruptions and the promotion of business innovations through more network flexibility. With interconnect solutions, it’s often enabling end-to-end security (25 percent) and better connection performance (22 percent). Scalable and flexible cost models also favour the cloud – OPEX already accounts for almost half of the network costs, and the trend will continue to rise over the next few years.

High Investments In 5G Thanks To The Commercialization

A detailed look at companies’ wireless and edge plans shows that “wireless first” is prioritised more than “edge first.” For some, it is currently simply more important to implement consistently good enterprise networking, and wireless is often the only or better way than wired options and enables mobility-dependent application scenarios. The combination of wireless networking and edge processing for common synergies is also relevant for the vast majority. IDC also sees great potential here, especially for innovative connectivity-driven business models.

For wireless networking, 25 percent currently primarily want to build a hybrid wireless network of 5G and WiFi-6, 41 percent focus on 5G (public and private), and 14 percent on WiFi-6. Overall, a clear trend toward 5G. Consequently, according to the current status, many use cases such as IoT, smart buildings, edge computing, or mobility services are to be implemented primarily with 5G or hybrid architectures.

Implementation Of Security Approaches Such As ZTNA And SASE

Most surveyed are planning modern security approaches such as ZTNA and SASE or already have them in productive operation. The changing IT environments and, in particular, the disappearance of a clear perimeter requires significant network security measures. From IDC’s perspective, it is extremely pleasing that modern security approaches such as ZTNA, SASE, and SDP have already been implemented by 11 percent of the organisations, 38 percent are currently implementing them, and 26 percent plan to implement them within the next 12 months. In total, this corresponds to a large majority of 75 percent. Many capabilities are considered relevant to the SASE concept, particularly network transparency and security features to secure cloud user traffic.

The Network Makes An Important Contribution To The Sustainability Profile

The topic of sustainability is also playing an increasingly important role in networks because the growth in data means that they consume more and more energy, and network equipment is also resource-intensive to manufacture. Sixty-eight percent of organisations agree that their networks significantly contribute to the company’s sustainability profile, and 69 percent are actively working to improve their networks in terms of sustainability. The economic aspect must not be neglected here: Increased energy costs and currently expensive or unavailable network equipment are forcing companies to rethink. Regardless of the core motivation, more sustainability is always a desirable win-win scenario, which IDC believes should be evaluated by all organisations for their entire IT landscape.

Enterprise Networking: Backlog Demand For Connectivity And Networking

From IDC’s point of view, the conclusion is mixed. Many companies know the value of good connectivity and the importance of the network. The downside, however, is that this connectivity and networking leave a lot to be desired in most cases. There is hope, however, because many companies are planning significant improvements for various reasons: It is becoming increasingly difficult to support regular business and everyday network management, and the implementation of business models based on connectivity is becoming more important.

When it comes to implementing modern networks and connectivity, most companies need help – not only because the staff is stretched to the limit with operational tasks but because the survey also makes it clear that implementation is often challenging in terms of complexity and technology know-how. On the one hand, this is an opportunity for network providers. Still, at the same time, it is also a responsibility not only to sell technologies and solutions but also to provide support and help end users to use their strained budgets as efficiently and purposefully as possible.

As is so often the case with technology investments, many organisations are threatened with going in circles: tight budgets and the high workload with operational tasks are common reasons for being unable to act. At the same time, a lack of financial, time, and human investments in one’s substance prevent the sustainable improvement of one’s economic situation. Networking and connectivity are critical because they are the core backbone on which most other technologies are built and share information. From IDC’s point of view, it is therefore urgently necessary to break out of the circle: Investments in networks are safe and essential investments in the company’s future.

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