The agility of the cloud has not been matched by legacy infrastructure, which is still widespread in businesses today. These companies must go virtual to become agile, a new whitepaper published by Computing shows.

The maturity of the cloud as a platform has led to increasing uptake among business owners, with many setting it at the heart of their digital transformation initiatives. A survey, detailed in the whitepaper, shows that more than half of firms (from SMBs to multinationals) are either almost entirely cloud or have made ‘impressive’ inroads. Only 15 per cent had made few or no moves towards adoption.

The speed of bringing new applications online, and the cost benefits – many cloud services are sold on a pay-as-you-consume basis – are well-recognised drivers of cloud adoption. Legacy WAN connectivity, though, is much slower to adapt – leaving businesses tied into long-term contracts with ageing infrastructure.

Taking advantage of the on-demand nature of the cloud requires on-demand networking; but 86 per cent of polled companies said that provisioning new network services took more than a month, and almost 10 per cent required a year or more. Only three per cent could deliver connectivity in less than a week, and one (not one per cent – just one) was able to do so in real time.

These long lead times are incompatible with heavy cloud use, but the challenge isn’t only down to taking on new connections: bandwidth is a separate but related issue, which also suffers from severe delays in rolling out new capacity.

Flexible bandwidth is something of a unicorn: companies acknowledge its use (62 per cent of respondents said that being able to scale bandwidth as necessary would be a ‘huge’ or ‘very useful’ advantage), but many still rely on buying more than they need ahead of time: 60 per cent of companies surveyed admitted to regularly over-provisioning on bandwidth. The cost implications are obvious; but under-provisioning can be just as dangerous, with productivity and customer experience suffering as a direct result.

Virtualisation, in the form of software-defined networking (SDN), is increasingly being applied by networking providers as a way to remove the uncertainty from bandwidth use. SDN can virtually provide extra bandwidth as required, on a pay-per-use basis – bringing that same level of agility as other modern cloud services. This elastic infrastructure can be used on-demand: by an annual film festival needing to receive large files over the internet, for example, or by academic institutions in term time.

The whitepaper shows that demand for SDN is clearly there; the ability to scale infrastructure up and down as required can save both time and money. On-demand connectivity, leveraging the cloud, can be the finishing touch in digital transformation.

Find our new whitepaper here.