IT Briefcase Interview: Why Increasing Demand for Always-on Connectivity is Driving Advances in Network ResiliencyMarch 9, 2017 No Comments
The network infrastructure that enterprises rely upon for Internet connectivity is transforming, as businesses trend toward solutions requiring always-on connections, and as the Internet of Things introduces myriad devices that require greater processing power at the network’s edge. A veteran of the industry, Opengear CEO Gary Marks offers analysis into why network resilience has become such a challenge for today’s enterprises, as well as how businesses are improving the management of their remotely-located network sites.
- Q. For enterprises, what are the most pressing issues right now as network infrastructure needs evolve?
A. We are a decade into the IT transformation that moved us from client-server architectures to virtualized applications to cloud computers. Network Infrastructure, being the most critical, has been slower to change. Enterprises are now looking to catch up by adopting technologies such as SDN and Automation/Orchestration to drive efficiency and scalability to Network Management.
The resilience of critical networks remains a primary concern for enterprises. Uninterrupted network connectivity and the always-on availability of online assets is an absolute requirement for conducting business, regardless of industry. Delivering that essential connectivity, though, often means maintaining the uptime of network hardware located at far off data centers and remote sites. And unfortunately, as many enterprises are all too aware, outages can and do occur. Bad weather, damaged lines, human error and other such events take networks offline; Gartner estimates that sets affected enterprises back $5,600 each minute.
Businesses need to minimize this crippling downtime however possible. For many, their strategy is adding redundant failover connectivity that maintains remote access to network equipment (even when primary connections fail). But even more proactively, introducing intelligent out-of-band management of network resources at remote sites allows for infrastructure monitoring, automatic remediation of common network issues, and automated alerts that get sent to technicians when more complex problems arise.
- Q. How will the proliferation of IoT-enabled devices impact network infrastructure?
A. In the early stages of adoption, IoT has promoted the migration of IT complexity towards the core of the network. Connected devices at the edge interact directly with servers in the cloud, relying on an always-on Internet connection. As IoT becomes more mainstream, the sheer number of connected devices at the point of use will demand the deployment of more IT systems closer to the edge of network, which will greatly increase the need for remote IT infrastructure management solutions.
This influx of connected devices means preparing for a vast increase in the amount of data that networks must process. The IoT necessitates intelligent management of massive data volume, and places even more importance on the resilience of the network. Downtime and loss of connectivity means that those IoT devices (many of which are in use 24/7) lose their core functionality until the connections are restored. So the ability to access the networking infrastructure devices from anywhere, at any time, becomes an increasingly critical capability.
- Q. In what industries are you seeing the most need for network resilience – and why?
A. Network resilience has become an increasingly vital requirement in retail, finance, telecommunications, government, and any other industry where network hiccups severely impact business operations or customer experiences. The need for resilience is truly horizontal. Today, almost any electronic business transaction involves front end devices, back end servers and web or cloud service components. Lack of connectivity stops them from happening and network resilience is needed to ensure business continuity.
One industry example: retail locations are more connected than ever, with online POS systems, inventory and supply chain management, and solutions that utilize data and connectivity to optimize employee deployment, customer relationship management and loyalty programs. These tools, hard at work behind the scenes, are responsible for the modern retail experiences that customers find value in. Each of these solutions requires constant connectivity to function – today’s retail stores cannot conduct business if the network goes down. Worse, shoppers don’t like waiting, and the carefully earned customer loyalty that retailers cherish is eroded quickly during such a network outage.
It’s the same story in industries like finance and telecommunications: if customers don’t receive the experience they’ve come to expect due to a loss of connectivity, they become more likely to take their business elsewhere. That’s why network resilience that maintains that connectivity is critical for so many businesses.
- Q. What makes it so challenging to effectively manage network outages at remote locations?
A. Network outages at remote locations are a double-whammy – businesses are hit with not only the cost to remediate the issue, but more importantly, the impact on company operations during any outage. Businesses are more and more reliant on their network infrastructure across all parts of the enterprise, and even a few minutes of downtime can lead to lower productivity and lost revenue. With many remote locations lacking experienced on-site personnel, it often becomes necessary to fly or truck-roll technicians out to the site to access the equipment in person – an expensive endeavor, and one that means prolonged outages.
The investment in remote access equipment is easily offset by the potential for lasting reputational damage that an enterprise incurs during these events (when customers who can’t complete their business with the enterprise become frustrated and explore their alternatives). These negative consequences stem from situations where effective, resilient remote access could have minimized the total downtime to a few moments – or even no time at all.
- Q. What role does Opengear’s technology play when it comes to network infrastructure at data centers and other remote sites?
A. Opengear helps enterprises to provision, configure and maintain the most essential network infrastructure supporting IT services. We provide infrastructure management capabilities designed to bolster the resilience of remote network devices and ensure seamless connectivity and uptime. All solutions feature Smart OOB™, our out-of-band management technology, which can be programmed to automatically send alerts and respond to events that threaten the connectivity of remote networks. This configuration can oversee everything from networking equipment, computers and power supplies, to remote site environments that have security cameras, smoke alarms, door sensors and more.
We also look to maximize the WAN connectivity of remote sites through our Failover to Cellular™ technology and embedded multi-carrier support. These ensure that connectivity, uptime, and remote access are maintained without interruption, even if a primary landline (or even a primary cellular connection) becomes unavailable. We also have zero touch provisioning, a link layer discovery protocol, and orchestration tools in order to maximize deployment automation.
- Q. Can you give us a specific example of an Opengear deployment?
A. Secura Hosting is a provider of high-performance virtual private cloud hosting, serving enterprise clients that depend on the company to securely host critical applications and systems that absolutely must be accessible at all times. Secura has a highly regarded reputation for reliability and strong operational processes, with an emphasis on data security.
Following its acquisition in 2014, Secura experienced rapid growth, and found it necessary to expand its infrastructure to new data center locations. This led the company to seek more efficient methods for carrying out tasks requiring console access, such as updates and configuration changes – which had traditionally been accomplished by deploying engineers to the data center site. After a detailed evaluation, Secura enlisted Opengear to transform its processes via remote access technologies.
Opengear CM7100 console servers with Smart OOB technology are now deployed at each of Secura’s data center sites. The technology provides reliable remote access and monitoring, diagnostics, and automatic remediation to maximize uptime and resolve issues without the need for engineers to be present. Following this deployment, Secura has estimated that it was able to achieve a full return on its investment in Opengear’s solution within just seven months, and continues to hold its reputation for high-availability and reliable service.
Gary Marks, CEO of Opengear, is responsible for the company’s overall strategy and execution globally. Previously, Gary served as Opengear’s President, where he led the company’s global sales and marketing operations. Prior to Opengear, he was the SVP Global Sales and Marketing for Raritan, a power and infrastructure management provider for data centers. An accomplished senior executive, he has held senior executive leadership positions with Dialogic (acquired by Intel), Conner Peripherals (acquired by Seagate), Western Digital and AT&T. Gary holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Miami and a MBA in Finance from Farleigh Dickinson University.APPLICATION INTEGRATION, CLOUD COMPUTING, DATA and ANALYTICS , Fresh Ink, Inside the Briefcase, OPEN SOURCE, SOCIAL BUSINESS