Networking and agile are two terms that don’t typically go together. Traditionally, companies have been tied to a single data centre, without any opportunity to diversify; if something goes down, the whole network goes down. On the other end of the spectrum, being ‘agile’ is generally defined as the ‘power of moving quickly and easily’ or ‘nimbleness’. The widespread accessibility and adoption of cloud has, in theory, created an opportunity for network vendors to provide a service that empowers their customers, not restricts them.

However, it seems that many companies are still having to sacrifice on agility and remain restricted by their network provider. Many vendors claim to provide agile networks, when in reality they are anything but; often not explaining exactly what businesses can get or what they are entitled to when migrating to the cloud.

What often gets lost in translation is the fact that agile networking doesn’t actually mean whole data centres have to be moved completely to the cloud in one go. Yet, there is a choice. Whether it’s moving huge parts at once or small elements over time, it is possible, and should be encouraged, for businesses to make a decision based on what’s best for them in the long run. So, what exactly does ‘agile networking’ really mean for businesses? And is it always the right option?

Build the network

The first thought when it comes to transitioning to a business that truly practices agile networking is often to build the private network yourself. This is very desirable; you’re in control, there’s no need for compromise or to meet anyone else’s demands. Isn’t this truly agile? In a word – no.

While there may be the required expertise sat behind the computer that develops it in the first place, maintaining it once in practice is a much tougher challenge. However, this often ends up as the complete opposite of what is means to have an agile network. With outsourcing or buying however, there are multiple networks available depending on your demands; letting businesses focus on transformation, rather than answering a million and one in-house cloud solution queries.

Scalability and flexibility

Cloud computing does give the opportunity for businesses to become more flexible; to scale up or down resources to meet demands. In such uncertain times, nothing is predictable, which means the cloud model of pay-per-use ensures that companies can maximise cloud storage most effectively and efficiently.

With lots of reasons for network spikes – from seasonal demands to testing and development periods – so leaning closer to an OPEX model, rather than a CAPEX model ensures that processes remain efficient and avoid wasting money unnecessarily. Long gone are the days when you wanted to innovate but had to wait 30 (at best) working days to get the go ahead. Today the ability to innovate and test at much faster speeds is well and truly here.

Create an ecosystem of networks

As with any hyped technology, there is the temptation to ditch all existing processes and jump on the bandwagon; believing that this technology will solve all the problems. Many vendors claim that their technology is the only solution you’ll need, and for one of your systems that may be the case. However, true network agility requires taking the time to choose the best-of-breed system for all workloads – not just one.

Going ‘multi-cloud’ will ensure that enterprises aren’t restricted to one operator, and if something does go down, they can avoid the whole company becoming completely paralysed. Gartner has predicted that by 2020, 90 percent of all organisations will have adopted hybrid infrastructure management capabilities. Meaning businesses can get the best-for-the-job service without sacrificing on agility.

Not only is the definition of agile networking a high source of contention, with the term being muddied by network providers, the measurement of agility is also up for debate. Technology innovation is enabling businesses to react more efficiently with confidence – becoming nimble as the definition states – with a diverse range of services to choose from. However, enterprises will never reap the benefits of agile networking until they understand what they want to achieve, and from that, they will be able to match a variety of cloud solutions to meet their business demands.