Commerce

To build strong business infrastructure, success requires careful planning 


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This article was contributed by Sanjay Ramnath, vice president of products, NS1.

A company’s business interests and technology goals can no longer operate independently. Instead, they’re converging, and supporting a shared objective: providing the best possible user experience to everyone inside and outside the company.

Provided that optimal experience can only happen with a company-wide effort to modernize application delivery and connectivity — this can be challenging to coordinate, yet doing so is essential to building new business value, facilitating innovation, and meeting customer demands.

Why business and tech execs demand an optimal UX

Over the course of the past two years, the pandemic has changed the way businesses engage with key audiences. Applications are no longer an added bonus; they are now at the core of both customer and employee experiences. Customers rely on apps to stream content, shop for products, and request customer service, while employees rely on apps to collaborate with remote teams, share knowledge, track expenses on the go, and manage benefits. Optimal app performance is now business-critical, directly determining employee efficiency as well as customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, and revenue.

Optimizing app performance requires resilience, performance, agility, and scale — longtime IT KPIs that are now highly relevant to business leaders as well. The only way businesses can deliver on the promise of superior user experiences is if business and technology executives collaborate to optimize application infrastructure and ensure that their DevOps and NetOps teams are equipped to innovate.

What execs need to achieve their shared goals

To meet their common goals, business and technology executives need to come together to consider three key factors: modern customers, modern applications, and the modern “connectivity fabric” that ties it all together.

The first important factor is to recognize that there is no single kind of customer. Where customers once converged around physical stores and offices, they are now scattered across highly distributed locations and use applications on a wide array of devices. Despite their differences, customers consistently demand better app performance. If companies can optimize the app experience, they can improve retention and ensure that they have a foundation to scale in support of a broader, as-yet-untapped audience with different demographics, buying patterns, and priorities.

Next, companies must adopt a distributed application delivery infrastructure to support a demanding, decentralized audience. In order to minimize latency, this requires the use of a globally distributed network of multiple cloud and CDN providers. This brings content and resources as close to each user as possible with the redundancy needed to handle one cloud or CDN provider going dark.

Finally, what ties it all together is a modern “connectivity fabric” — the underlying foundational technologies that support application infrastructures, no matter how distributed, and ensure that applications meet the needs and expectations of every audience, regardless of location or device.

What stands in the way of a successful business infrastructure

Unfortunately, executives often grapple with a major roadblock on the path toward making this a reality. Namely, many companies are currently trapped in a hybrid non-cloud-native architecture split between on-site and cloud, causing quite a few logistical headaches. Businesses trapped on-premise have to expend money and time to maintain legacy infrastructure because it contains the core network. This makes it hard to optimally deliver apps in a world that demands a distributed approach. As many as 80% of all organizations struggle to meet application delivery requirements with the network infrastructure they have in place.

Compounding this, many businesses have acquired technologies that solve specific problems, but don’t integrate well with each other. If these technologies are platform-specific, the challenge is even greater, since major infrastructure changes can break them. Many businesses are also overwhelmed by the massive amounts of data their infrastructure generates. If the various technologies in the network don’t synergize with each other, the data they generate likely won’t either.

Finally, some executives mistakenly assume they can simply overcome these problems by building a larger workforce. This approach is outdated; only automation can make effective millisecond-to-millisecond decisions based on massive amounts of data.

The solution: a radical change in thinking and business infrastructure

Companies require a radical change in thinking — beyond boundaries out to the edge — to provide the best user experience. Going forward, companies must prioritize edge connectivity as they evolve their infrastructure, bringing resources as close as possible to the people who need them, across many kinds of platforms.

While companies can continue to support hybrid environments, they must also shift to a “cloud-native” mentality when expanding their infrastructure. Designing around the cloud, rather than their on-site infrastructure, will allow companies to scale up or down rapidly, based on real-time demand. This also requires moving away from platform-specific technologies, where possible, to allow for maximum agility and flexibility.

Investments to decentralize access to core network services are essential as well. This ensures that DevOps and NetOps team members can quickly and reliably access the resources they need. These teams must become more agile and open to innovation without the bottleneck of waiting for a central authority to coordinate access to infrastructure and network resources. Companies need to arm DevOps and NetOps teams with the tools they need to innovate autonomously, while still upholding security best practices.

Business and technology executives alike have an incentive to deliver applications to customers in a resilient, distributed fashion, and to provide development and network teams with the decentralized infrastructure they need to innovate. Making these radical shifts unquestionably creates a win-win scenario for everyone involved — and is a far cry from the siloed approach many executives still use. It’s time for executives to partner together beyond infrequent boardroom meetings, aligning their goals and viewpoints at their organizations’ highest levels. Their companies’ futures depend on it.

Sanjay Ramnath is vice president of products at NS1.

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