In late 2015, IDC predicted that 30 per cent of the top firms in every business sector ‘will not exist as we know them today’. They may have merged, declined, been replaced or simply not be relevant to new business requirements. Companies have been transforming since before that prediction, but IDC’s statement brought it to the fore. Network operator Colt’s new whitepaper discusses the process of digital transformation: a term that is widely used, but not wholly understood.

Digital transformation can mean something different for every company. For most, it means changing traditional methods and ideas to new ways of working, enabled by new technology, applications and approaches. The desire to create an agile business that can keep pace with the fast-moving modern world underpins the concept.

Networks are not designed with agility in mind. They are typically deployed as fixed bandwidth circuits with expensive, long-term contracts: the opposite of what is needed. Colt instead argues for the ‘liquid infrastructure’: a network that is virtualised or software-defined (an SDN). Network requirements can be provisioned in much less time than a traditional network: minutes, not weeks.

Learning from past mistakes

When the cloud began to gain popularity, several companies attempted to build their own cloud infrastructure, but were stymied by a lack of in-house skills. That lesson can equally be applied to liquid infrastructure SDN build-outs. Rather than going the self-build route, ‘renting’ the infrastructure from a service provider is usually a faster, more flexible option.

Liquid infrastructure is also known as elastic infrastructure: it can be manipulated to meet short-term business needs. For example, if you occasionally need to upload a large amount of data, an SDN can be modified to account for that. Traditional networks simply don’t have the scalability to do this on-demand; instead, customers must place an order in advance and lock themselves into a new contract.

In short, a liquid infrastructure can be used to deploy applications and processes when and where they are needed, for as long as they are needed. For more about SDN and liquid infrastructure, read Colt’s whitepaper.