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Why does new technology fill CIOs with anxiety and uncertainty? Part 1

July 2, 2017

James Parker   

Blog Contributor

“The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women’s fashion. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane. I don’t understand what we would do differently in the light of cloud.”

It’s quite incredible to think that these words were uttered by Oracle’s Larry Ellison just nine years ago, as the cloud computing hype was starting to gather pace in the technology industry.

Whenever a new technology emerges that challenges the way people and businesses have been doing things for years or even decades, the initial excitement is soon over-shadowed by uncertainty, anxiety and reluctance to try something new. The CIO, rest of senior management, the IT department and the teams and lines of business who would be impacted by the new technology are all likely to wonder why change is needed, if the current solution is working just fine. We are all creatures of habit after all.

It’s understandable that the CIO and his peers, who are ultimately accountable if the new solution doesn’t live up its promise would be apprehensive about embracing a new, untried and untested technology. But, over time, following much consideration, assessment and consultation with experts, this uncertainty and apprehension tends to subside. In a sense, this pattern could be compared to the Hype Cycles by Gartner: Innovation Triggers (such as brain-computer interfaces), progress to a Peak of Inflated Expectations (autonomous vehicles), and from there to a Trough of Disillusionment (augmented reality) – before emerging in the Slope of Enlightenment (virtual reality) and finally the Plateau of Productivity.

When it comes to enterprise networking, SD-WAN is one technology that has many CIOs on the fence at the moment. Yet, it is expected to reach the Plateau of Productivity in only a few years – which means that forward looking enterprises should start planning their move to this emerging technology now to make sure they won’t be playing catch-up with their more agile competitors later. While it might be tempting to sit tight, early movers in SD-WAN will have the advantage, and any arguments for not taking the plunge with the technology can be easily rebuked.

If it isn’t broken…

As enterprise bandwidth demands continue to grow, it is becoming prohibitively expensive for the CIO to continue adding more and more dedicated network capacity for their private WAN. On the other hand, security and reliability concerns are increasing with the public Internet, which is not fit for purpose when it comes to business-critical applications. As network traffic continues on its upward trajectory, congestion is likely to have a detrimental effect on end-user experience, leading to jitter and lag when accessing cloud-based applications. And, as technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, cognitive computing, artificial intelligence and real-time data analytics become more and more widely adopted, network congestion will worsen. So, simply sticking to the way things have been done for years won’t work in the long term.

Instead, more and more CIOs are realising the benefits of hybrid enterprise networks, which combine the scalability of the public Internet with the reliability and security of a private WAN. These hybrid networks and SD-WAN are a perfect match. One of the benefits of SD-WAN is that it enables users to do more with existing bandwidth by giving the CIO control over how traffic routed – over the Internet or the private network – and how bandwidth is allocated for different applications. This ensures that cloud-based unified communication and collaboration applications, for example, deliver a seamless experience both over low-bandwidth instant messaging and data-hungry video.

I don’t want to be the guinea pig…

Adopting an untried technology takes guts. It can be risky and some CIOs and organisations are more risk-averse than others. Having said that, I actually wouldn’t advise any enterprise with thousands of employees to deploy SD-WAN immediately across all geographies.

The best, least daunting and least risky approach is to start with a small implementation first. And, of course, the CIO should ask their SD-WAN supplier for case studies and customer references to get insights into how the specific solution has performed in the real world to-date, and help avoid potential pitfalls with the deployment.

It becomes clear that SD-WAN can help organisations stay agile, and being well-informed will be key when rolling this technology out. In part two of this blog post, I’ll talk about how to mitigate surprises an organisation may face during deployment.

In the meantime, read a previous blog on the 3 ways you can managing network underlay with SD-WAN.