Your organization runs a tight ship, building profit by taking advantage of operational efficiencies borne from technological innovations. Thanks to IoT and RFID, you now track products from the point of origin to the point of consumption. So how can you leverage your company's WAN to optimize your supply chain management?
Deploying efficient global supply chain management grows your business, leads innovation and increases productivity. Stax, a global strategy consultancy, forecasts that by 2025, companies that incorporate IoT technologies throughout their global supply chains could be at least 10 percent more profitable than competitors that don't.
Incorporating IoT across supply chains results in the generation, collection, and analysis of data. IoT technologies drive automation; the data they generate drives decision-making. If your WAN isn't IoT-optimal, profits will eventually suffer. So, configuring your company's WAN to benefit from IoT should be a top priority.
Digital transformation and the supply chain
Many companies have yet to embrace digitization fully. The result is that they have a jumble of digital and manual systems, siloing data. Hence, decision-makers lack complete information when making informed choices.
Your company's WAN should facilitate the free flow of information as your supply chain transitions to "demand shaping" from "demand planning." This forward-looking approach analyzes contingencies to gauge expected demand and manage supply chain logistics. Demand shaping entails the collation and analysis of comprehensive data sets; your WAN must optimize this process.
Putting the cloud to work for you
Many businesses have embraced network innovations to cut costs and improve performance. For example, many organizations have migrated from a WAN based on an MPLS architecture to a WAN managed by software (SD-WAN). Indeed, IDS claims that 80 percent of enterprises will have an SD-WAN strategy by the end of 2021.
Consider freight forwarder JAS Worldwide, which deployed an SD-WAN to run cloud applications, thereby slashing its bandwidth connectivity costs. With its worldwide footprint, JAS needed to support 4,000 personnel across 240 locations, many in backwater locales. Moreover, the company required <150 ms latency across its WAN for the application software to perform optimally.
After JAS transitioned from MPLS to SD-WAN, the company cut provisioning intervals from as long as 8 months to under 1 month. At the same time, JAS shaved up to 66 percent of bandwidth connectivity costs. The company's use of software and its SD-WAN also supports its predictive analytics strategy as it creates "data lakes" on weather data and airline and ocean freight schedules.
Hardening your WAN with redundancy and DRaaS
You require three metrics from your WAN:
- Reliable with little to no downtime
- Consistent bandwidth to minimize data packet loss, jitter, and latency
- Highly secure and readily managed and monitored
Like JAS Worldwide cited above, your business no doubt runs mission-critical applications across your WAN. While 100 percent uptime is more of a goal than a reality, you should ensure that the uptime of your network is at least the industry standard: 99.95 percent (± 4 hours annually).
Network downtime affects customers and employees through losses of revenue and productivity. A redundantly configured WAN—with duplicate components such as hard drives, routers, internet links, and operating systems—supports network availability and uptime should a vital element fail. Network redundancy, server redundancy, and data redundancy prevent disruptions and keeps businesses online.
Every business with a digital presence should have a data recovery plan in place when (not if) the unthinkable occurs. In today's connected world, the lifeblood of your business is data. Its loss or unavailability—even if only temporary—has a profound impact on your company.
Just as computing services—i.e., software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), etc.—are migrating to the cloud, so is disaster recovery (DRaaS). Unlike Cloud-based backup services, DRaaS safeguards data and provides redundant capacity-on-demand through a SaaS solution to spur speedy application recovery.
Disasters take various forms. While a natural calamity may first come to mind, power outages, catastrophes such as equipment failure, and cyberattacks all wreak havoc on organizational IT. These events not only rupture operational continuity but can also even force companies out of business.
Consider malware attacks. In 2019 alone, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) tracked over 184 million ransomware attacks. While SMEs may be more vulnerable to ransomware, larger enterprises are not immune. For example, in 2019, cybercriminals targeted a Los Angeles hospital system with a ransomware attack, demanding $3.4 million.
A robust and wide-ranging DR plan not only addresses ongoing security concerns but monitors network and system health while continuously replicating data, applications, and cloud systems. The goal is to detect issues before they become full-blown crises.
Bandwidth on demand
As defined by linktionary.com, "Bandwidth on demand is a data communication technique for providing additional capacity on a link as necessary to accommodate bursts in data traffic, a videoconference, or other special requirements. The technique is commonly used on wide area networks (WANs) to boost the capacity of a link temporarily." This "rubber bandwidth" can be quickly and easily scaled to meet busy-hour demands and just as quickly be decreased.
Just as important as network load balancing is ensuring that your WAN delivers acceptable parameters of consistent bandwidth delivery, latency, and jitter. Insufficient bandwidth will impact data-heavy services such as video conferencing and VoIP. Meanwhile, delays due to latency and jitter can render these services inactive.
Secure and manageable WAN
Using Security-driven Network architecture, businesses intertwine network and security functions together to simplify configuration and orchestration. In doing so, enterprises safeguard their critical systems, no matter how widely distributed or dynamic their networks are.
Secure SD-WAN solutions not only connect multiple cloud environments, but they can also create on-demand connections between corporate data centers and the cloud. A secure SD-WAN also protects mobile devices and multiple applications while delivering sufficient flexibility and performance to end-users.
The goal is to reduce complexity and future-proof your networks. One case study found that a secure SD-WAN solution can be easily deployed and manage over 10,000 branch locations.
You may be intrigued by the possibilities an SD-WAN offers your business. As IoT becomes increasingly ubiquitous, the need to complete your company's digital transformation becomes more apparent. Find out what an SD-WAN solution can do for your company.