New technologies drive new capabilities, new information, and new ways of doing business. Forward-looking companies will demand more from the services and applications they use. This is the digital transformation. This will affect every industry and will impact every human being.

“We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another.” This is what Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, said at the start of 2016. He calls it the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And he believes that the change will be unlike anything we’ve experienced before.

The Internet of Things (IoT) plays a key role in this digital transformation. More people, devices, and things are being connected. By 2020, more than 50 billion devices will be networked. In North America alone, the average number of devices per internet user is expected to reach 13.6 in 2019 – up from 7.3 in 2014. We can save lives, protect endangered species, make cities smarter, make roads smarter, and be smarter in what we do. And all by connecting four elements: sensors, smart devices, autonomous machines and software.

Cloud-based data is the fuel of the future

All these new connections, applications and devices are generating a flood of data. Some is temporal, but much is not and has to live somewhere. Most will reside in the cloud. By 2019, 83 per cent of global data center traffic will come from cloud services and applications.

These cloud solutions are being adopted for many reasons. Initially, the focus was on reducing costs, meeting personnel needs, and improving the customer experience. Companies now expect cloud to impact broader, more strategic measures of the business’ success. In recent IDC research, 54 per cent of those surveyed expected cloud to have a major impact on their IT budget allocation. Further to that, 53 per cent expected cloud solutions to increase their revenues.

Increasing connections, evolving priorities

Digital transformation is having a major impact on business imperatives, and how your customers think about their cloud deployments. As more devices and connections generate more and more data, businesses have to contend with increasing complexity, new security issues, and regulatory concerns. They have to make these decisions fast. They face fierce pressure from competitors, from disruptors, and escalating demands from their own end customers.

More and more, businesses are drawing their attention and investment to what matters most – their core work and intellectual property value. Beyond that, they want partners who can help them to outsource IT services previously done in-house, and to create new business models. First, they must ensure strong business continuity and protect their data. In short, they must protect their future value.

Security that spans the attack continuum

Strong security is critical. Its importance has only grown as the IoT emerges. Organizations are becoming more aware of reputational risks and revenue losses associated with sensitive data breaches. They are also worried about the increasing sophistication of targeted attacks. They want partners such as service providers (SP) that can help protect them across the entire attack continuum.

Before an attack, they need security solutions that can control, enforce and harden the network perimeter, and provide vulnerability assessments. Next generation firewalls, virtual private networks, and unified threat management solutions can help keep intruders and malicious software out. During an attack, your customers need to detect, block, and defend themselves with solutions such as web and email security, and next generation intrusion prevention systems.

Even with strong security in place, advanced, persistent threats can penetrate defenses and lurk and spread for days or months without detection. Businesses need to scope, contain, and remediate sophisticated threats after an attack through advanced protection and sandboxing, as well as network behavior analysis.

Because your clients understand that security is critical, they see the value in getting that extra peace of mind. This can translate into higher value services you can provide leading to revenue increases.

Visibility and control

Being able to move fast, make decisions quickly, and provide great user experiences for their customers, is also important to organizations. To do this, they require granular end-to-end visibility into their network and applications. They also need a simple way to manage their IT environments and make informed decisions. Your customers need an autonomous system that can run smoothly and give them the control to quickly change and scale to support new business needs.

Customer self-service portals are a robust tool to give businesses the insight and control they need. According to a Cisco survey, 35 per cent of those questioned said that the ability to customize information to their business needs was the most attractive feature of a self-service portal to manage services. Customizing information was even more important among very large businesses with more than 10,000 employees.

Maintaining compliance

Regulatory compliance is top of mind for businesses. Whether they are deploying their digital transformation solutions on premises, buying them from an SP, or deploying a hybrid of both, organizations still need to comply with government and industry regulations. They need a solution that provides the flexibility, convenience, and cost savings of cloud without compromising compliance.

SPs also need to consider compliance when developing their solutions. When you are serving customers in different countries, you must consider data sovereignty. Digitized information is subject to the laws of the country it is located in. These laws can have substantial impact on your logical and physical cloud and storage architectures. If you have a network controlled by yourself or through a partner, you have an advantage in being able to locate data storage and repositories right where they need to be.

These are just a few of the changing expectations of your customers. They are going through a major change, as you must too to take advantage. This industrial revolution can sound scary wherever you are on the curve – the alternative, however, is far worse. We can help with transition and remove the fear.

It will be a fun ride!

Find out more

To keep pace with changing customer needs, you’ll need a network that can deliver the rich cloud services and scalable performance required. Cisco is the leader in network and cloud services, technologies, solutions, and security. Our solutions let you provide the management and flexibility customers need to quickly order and provision the services that work best for their business. And our robust security helps you protect yourself and protect your customers. I think that’s worth doing!

To learn more about how Cisco cloud solutions can help you support customers on their digital journey, visit www.cisco.com/go/spcloud.


Wayne Cullen

Senior Manager, Service Provider Architectures