Building a Strategic Roadmap for Networking?
Take A Few Tips From Gartner…
Analyst reports are a valuable tool I often use to help me better gauge the market and plan out my team’s strategy and goals. I relish taking a deep dive into industry intelligence and insights to help shape my approach to enterprise networking – and at times challenge my thinking. One recent analyst report really grabbed my attention, which is why I think it might pique your interest too.
Unlike some other reports I have read recently, Gartner’s 2017 Strategic Roadmap for Networking really opens up our horizons to explore what the future of the network holds for us all — and more importantly where IT leaders need focused efforts. And somewhat surprisingly, perhaps (as Gartner and Cisco haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on everything), I believe this report aligns closely with Cisco’s technology vision, strategy, and roadmap.
If Gartner, the leading IT analyst firm, and Cisco, the leading networking vendor, hold complementary visions about the future of networking, perhaps we’re both on to something. I thought it would be important to share a glimpse into exactly what those visions hold.
The future-state network
In my own conversations with CIOs and IT leaders, there is a common recognition that they have to change their networks to keep up with their organizations’ fast moving digital business goals. I think Gartner states it perfectly:
“The future-state network is an aspirational view of how enterprise network architectures should evolve to meet emerging business requirements and be more closely aligned with critical business objectives.”1
What that means is that we have to move away from today’s networks – that at best can be manually configured in silos — to ones that are automated, driven by intent of the business. These networks must continually adapt, protect, and learn so they can constantly support application service levels, security policies, and operational processes.
I believe the reasons for this necessary move to a more intelligent network — that responds instinctively to the needs of the business — are well understood by now. In fact, Gartner captures the urgency very elegantly as follows:
1. Business Transformation: “By YE20, CIOs anticipate that 78% of business processes will be affected by digital business opportunities and threats.”1 Without a network that can quickly adapt to new business needs, these digital business efforts will stall.
2. IoT: “Gartner predicts there will be 63 million new devices attaching to enterprise networks per second in 2020.”1 These efforts will fail, too, without a network that can scale to support the complexity and security risks of IoT.
3. Cloud: “The agility and elasticity associated with cloud computing are essential ingredients of digital business.”1 So, the new network needs to ensure secure and reliable access to cloud-based applications and services.
4. Mobility: “The number of digital devices connected to an enterprise network is increasing, due to bring-your-own device policies and the IoT.” 1 And likewise, without a network strategy to support mobile devices, the efficiency and experience benefits of mobility won’t be attainable.
So that covers the “what” and the “why”…but what about the “how?”
From an architecture perspective, Gartner talks about:
“ The network must become simpler, more agile, and more automated.”1 and “We will see a continued trend to leverage software-based, virtualized network solutions.”1 and also “Automate service delivery as much as possible in all parts of the network.”1
And I would enthusiastically agree. But I think we also need to be very clear on three other major capabilities the new era of networking needs to offer. The first is Security. In fact, in another report, Gartner relates to security as follows:
“Shift your security mindset from “incident response” to “continuous response,” wherein systems are assumed to be compromised and require continuous monitoring and remediation.”2
Again, I would wholeheartedly agree. However, I would add that it is only an intelligent network that has the visibility and reach to deliver on this powerful and necessary capability.
The second is Analytics: The future network needs to offer more than connectivity to the business. It needs to provide insight based on all the contextual data it can provide to both IT and the business.
And the third is Assurance. The network needs to have the visibility through context and intelligence driven by intent to understand what service levels all aspects of the organization need – and to deliver all those services securely and reliably. No questions asked!!
If like many of your peers, you’re trying to determine the best way to create your organization’s own network journey, you can’t go wrong with reading Gartner’s 2017 Strategic Roadmap for Networking.
As a next stop – I urge you to check out Cisco’s latest networking innovations here, as well as Cisco’s Digital Network Readiness Model and the DNA Readiness Advisor here to help you get started on planning your own roadmaps.
And be sure to let me know about your journey to a digital-ready network on Twitter @prashanthshenoy
 Gartner, Danilo Ciscato, Mark Fabbi, Lisa Pierce: 2017 Strategic Roadmap for Networking, February 2017, G00324263
 Gartner, Neil MacDonald, Peter Firstbrook: Designing an Adaptive Security Architecture for Protection from Advanced Attacks, January 2016, G00259490