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Digital transformation requires new network strategies. All the key elements of digital – social, mobile, analytics and cloud – rest on the ability of the network to deliver data where it is needed and when it is needed.

For enterprises, the capability of the network to deliver a first-rate user experience is essential for recruiting and retaining customers and staff. Both groups demand speed and responsiveness from every interaction with your enterprise systems. Newer digital technologies, such as Internet of Things, virtual reality and augmented reality, threaten to overwhelm networks, unless CIOs and company leaders get the technologies and strategies in place to cope.

To evaluate the challenges that digital transformation puts on the network, and the strategies organizations are using to respond, global enterprise communications giant Level 3 commissioned a major Europe-wide research study by IDG Connect.

“For years now, the enterprise software giants have proclaimed their applications are the platform on which organizations should build their business and entrust their digital transformation strategies,” said Andrew Edison, senior vice president sales EMEA region at Level 3. “We think that existing and emerging digital technologies mean the network, rather than the applications that run on the network, should be seen as the platform.”

To test the current state of play, IDG Connect asked business and technology leaders a series of questions about their cloud strategy, their attitude to infrastructure innovations such as software defined networking, the current state of their networks and the drivers for infrastructure investment.

Despite the enormous growth of public cloud platforms in Europe since Amazon Web Services chose Dublin to launch its first regional offering outside the United States in 2009, which was followed by Microsoft, also in Ireland in 2009, and Google in Belgium from 2010, private cloud remains a priority for respondents. Currently, 54% of respondents’ IT services and applications are currently hosted in the cloud and this is expected to increase to 63% in two years’ time.

The key drivers of cloud investment show how business technology leaders and CEOs have changed their attitude to the cloud: where once security was seen as a barrier to cloud adoption, it is now seen as the major driver.

  • Growing data security requirements (56%)
  • Reduce the cost of IT service delivery (54%)
  • Need to scale IT resources quickly on demand (53%)

Interestingly, freeing up in-house IT staff for customer-facing or commercial services activity, tailed with 39%, while moving from a CAPEX to an OPEX billing model came in at 34%, yet both are commonly cited as key benefits by cloud service providers.

There were some regional variations within the findings. In Germany, the need to reduce the cost of IT service delivery was the most common cloud use driver (57%), while in France it was the need to scale IT resources quickly on demand (61%).

Given the importance of the cloud and the other core digital technologies, respondents were generally confident of their network’s capacity to provide a platform for digital transformation. More than 60% said their networks were capable or very capable of coping with developing demands. There were, however, some regional variations on what respondents considered the most significant requirements on the network going forward.

  • United Kingdom: Global business expansion, followed closely by enterprise mobility/BYOD initiatives received the highest mean ratings
  • Germany: Application and service migration to public/private/hybrid cloud, followed closely by data centre transformation
  • France: Global business expansion, followed by enterprise mobility/BYOD initiatives
  • Belgium and the Netherlands: Data centre transformation, followed by application and service migration to public/private/hybrid cloud

Delivering on these requirements means widespread deployment of technologies such as software-defined networking, with respondents listing a range of benefits including:

  • Simplified network management and resource control (60%)
  • Hardware consolidation (58%)
  • Enhanced network, compute and storage visibility (57%)
  • Easier application and service testing and innovation (56%)
  • Freeing up network engineers for other tasks (55%)
  • Fast automated provisioning through customer self-service portals (53%)
  • Programming network services with minimal hardware configuration (52%)

“You get a sense of the power of the technology when you ask our respondents to pick just one key benefit of SDN to their organization and you get a pretty even split (16% to 11%) between these seven factors,” explained Andrew. “With cloud now the foundation of enterprise technology and where the most exciting innovations such as IoT, machine learning, big data analytics and augmented reality are happening, the importance of powerful, flexible, scalable and easily configurable networks has never been greater,” he added.

As business and technology leaders try to source, configure and optimize the right mix of public, private and hybrid cloud services to build a platform for digital transformation, Level 3 aims to provide the secure, flexible network and communications infrastructure that can underpin their success.

For more discussion on this subject and more information on Level 3 Communications, one of the world’s leading communications and services providers, follow this link http://www.level3.eu.com/EMEAConnectedEnterpriseUK

IDG Connect surveyed  executives, CIOs, CTOs, CDOs, CISOs, and managers in in organisations from 25,000+ to 500+ employees, with multiple offices worldwide and based in the UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium and Germany