Blog: Service-Centric Transformation

By Erik Thoen |

Numerous companies have initiated digital transformation projects. However, few companies have fully realized benefits, especially because of the challenges beleaguered IT departments face. Companies can digitally transform their business effectively by implementing a service-centric network infrastructure.

Today many companies are striving to transform their business digitally, which can take dramatically different forms depending on the organization, business unit, or even initiative. However, the common theme is to change a business model, managed by a corporate executive, by employing digital technologies, managed by an IT executive. In terms of implementation, for the IT department the transformation almost always takes the form of delivering an application or service through the network and compute infrastructure.

Challenges

One of the most frequent challenges in transformation is getting the business and IT teams to work together seamlessly since their areas of focus are different. The business unit is typically only focused on the corporate need and not implementation of the underlying a solution. Similarly instead of having time to fully understand the business requirements, the IT team may be focused on the day-to-day management of infrastructure. If either team does not understanding the whole problem and solution, transformation often fails.

One of the biggest challenges for IT is that most vendors design networking equipment for delivering packets, not business services. Unfortunately many networking vendors have allowed the layers of the OSI stack to limit equipment behavior and management. This approach produces platforms which are incredibly complicated to manage and makes scaling and provisioning to match business needs nearly impossible. Instead of easily provisioning platforms based on service names directly tied to a digital initiative, IT must translate the service into the language of the networking platform, scrupulously review the security implications, and then provision multiple devices separately. It’s not surprising that IT doesn’t have time to think about the actual business need!

Service-Centric Solution

For digital transformation the network infrastructure should be designed to be service-centric instead of packet-centric. The network delivers services through sessions initiating from a user client to an application server, potentially across many routers. Different services require different network optimization. For example, a voice service might require low latency, while a backup application can operate at any latency. Further, application servers might be located many different places, operate at different performance levels, or become overloaded at times. All of this may require per-service optimization. In contrast to a traditional router-by-router approach, a service-centric fabric manages all parameters end-to-end, on a per-service basis.

At 128 Technology we provide service-oriented management through our innovative architecture and data model. We use business language in our data model which makes it easier for an IT administrator to map a business need into the configuration of the network. In our model tenants are groups of devices or endpoints that are allowed to access specific services in the same way, and our architecture applies these hierarchical policies consistently across the entire network. Our data model might describe a transformation initiative in terms of the business unit tenant having a division sub-tenant with access to a digital application service. To simplify operations, our 128T Conductor management platform provides several visualizations of these relationships. In the screenshot below a tenant, ‘bank,’ has a sub-tenant division, ‘sales.bank,’ deploying a new service, ‘transaction_servers.’ Our service-centric model directly expresses the elements of the digital initiative in plain language, so it greatly simplifies communication between IT and business teams and ensures implementation in the network.

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Results

This service-centric approach has produced results for enterprises. One of our current customers, a materials company, was using their network to deliver diverse services to their production sites. For example at remote locations they had a camera service to monitor and optimize production throughput, but they also had a unified communications service for on-site troubleshooting. The infrastructure connecting these remote sites was very poor, so they used two MSPs for redundancy. However, the available bandwidth on the two networks was very different, and in a fail-over scenario the secondary connection did not have enough bandwidth to deliver all the services. The customer discovered numerous challenges to creating policies to ensure appropriate path selection and prioritization across all of their existing routers and locations. With our approach they used business language in our data model to define service-specific policies from a single management location. The architecture applied the policies consistently across all routers, ensuring the best possible delivery of all services. Best of all, the business language of the data model remains captured for reference when the next initiative begins.

True digital transformation requires business and IT to work together (click to tweet). However, the design of traditional networking equipment makes translating enterprise requirements into technical action quite challenging. By deploying networking infrastructure which directly employs the business language of applications and services, a CIO bridges the gap between business and IT constituencies, creating service-centric transformation.

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