The two biggest hurdles preventing enterprises from modernizing their networks are budgets and a severe skills shortage, according to Scott Wheeler, Cloud Practice Leader at Asperitas. While the latter is straightforward, the former isn’t necessarily so – and that’s where the cloud comes in.
Before moving forward, it helps to define what “network modernization” means in terms of the study.
The survey focused on large enterprises with 1,000 employees or more. For these entities, modernization is usually focused on creating a more flexible, extensible network to which they can add access to the public cloud software-as-a-service offerings and make other necessary changes quickly, Wheeler told Silverlinings.
Among survey respondents, 86% said their organizations are planning a network update. But when it comes to such upgrade projects, nearly half (45%) said budget constraints are the biggest obstacle.
Interestingly, it’s not the lack money in absolute terms that’s the problem – after all, Wheeler noted many enterprises magically found cash to make a technology pivot when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Rather, he said, it’s the lack of clarity over who will be spending the money and why.
“Usually when you deal with infrastructure projects like network modernization, it’s really hard to tie to a business unit or a goal that maybe a single business unit could tie to profitability because these things tend to kind of cross cut through the organization,” he explained. “So it’s much tougher in a larger organization to allocate the money to something like that…so it usually has to get to a point where the money is allocated when something catastrophic happens.”
And just how much money are we talking? Well, for starters, just to bring in a boutique professional services firm like Asperitas to help with network modernization can run anywhere from “the low five figures” for a small or mid-sized enterprise to seven figures for a large organization looking to overhaul its global network, Wheeler said.
Thankfully, the enterprise push into the public cloud and uptake of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications like Office 365 has given businesses a place to plunk down the network modernization line item, he added. “That’s forced them into addressing this,” Wheeler said. “They can’t ignore it anymore.”
But there’s another looming issue.
Wheeler noted it’s not just the networks themselves that need to be modernized, but also the skillsets of the staff running them.
In the survey, 28% of enterprises cited a lack of technical skills as the other major hurdle hindering their modernization efforts. Network engineering (64%) led in terms skills most in demand, followed by networking architecture (59%), project management (58%) and security architecture (54%).
“The network’s old and so are the skillsets. That’s part of the challenge…Now because of the cloud and because of things like SD-WAN and that and very, very few network people know how to do that kind of coding, ” he said. “So, you have to upskill either all your current network people, or you have to bring in a professional services organization to walk alongside them where you upskill them as well as make the network changes.”
Wheeler encouraged network engineers and architects to take advantage of any training programs available through their employer, whether they’re required or not. Doing so, he added, could help employees secure their positions in an environment rife with layoffs.
“Network people are hard to find, period,” he said. “And a network person who understands a more modern network and being able to do something programmatically – it’s not really hardcore coding but somebody who knows how to put scripts together to do their job and program things like SD-WAN and cloud-based networks and how to integrate that – they’re really, really, really hard to find.”
Anyone who goes into that area will have an “easy time” finding and keeping a good quality job, he concluded.
The full infographic depicting the survey results can be found here.