In his book The Seventh Sense, Joshua Cooper Ramo makes the thought-provoking statement that networks compress time. Nowhere is this more visible than with Amazon. Amazon reportedly releases more than 20,000 new features, capabilities and services to their customers a day, making changes to production every 11 seconds. Facebook does multiple releases a day, and Google does a large package of releases every week or two.
The tremendous power of the time advantage
These companies have created a huge advantage—a time advantage—and they use it with often-devastating effect to innovate faster than their competitors. And not just a little bit faster, not just twice as fast, or 10 times as fast, but orders of magnitude faster. This means faster to customer services, faster to customer value, faster to revenues and profits, even faster to failure. In business, controlling time is like controlling the air space in a war where everyone else is fighting from the ground. It’s a big advantage, and it’s delivered through the network.
Google, Amazon and Facebook are examples of the Network-Haves. They moved away from traditional IP networks around 2008, putting new IP architectures at the center of their business models and turning the network itself into a platform for rapid business innovation. This enables them to build new stuff fast for their company and their customers. And time is money in business.
Lego my network
What is a new IP network architecture? It does for the network what the agile development model did for software. It takes the network out of a long-cycle planning and development system, dependent on a hierarchical model, manual scripting, and expensive and proprietary hardware to something completely different. Networks should work like Legos. You should be able to mix and match standard components together in a way that lets you create anything you want, and then tear it down again when you’re ready for something new. Any one vendor’s hardware or software should snap into any other vendor’s. And it should be as easy to take a vendor out as it is to put one in so that you retain control of your own destiny.
That’s really what new IP infrastructure is all about. It’s a software-centric network architecture. It puts the user, not the vendor, at the center of the ecosystem on which it is based. It has decomposable elements that can be combined together to rapidly create new services. It’s automated and programmable, and it includes powerful analytics monitoring tools that give you the actionable intelligence needed to identify issues and maximize performance across the network. And it builds in pervasive security from the ground up.
When combined with automation and a DevOps model of application development, a new IP network yields lightning-fast innovation, cost efficiencies and competitive advantage. It helps your business be agile from top to bottom.
The network matters—a lot
The Googles, Amazons and Facebooks at the forefront of this movement didn’t start with the new IP network architectures they have today. They created these architectures fewer than 10 years ago because they recognized that their legacy IP architectures couldn’t meet the rapid innovation and automation needs of their business models.
In fact, Google chronicled its journey in a series of published documents that detail the replacement of traditional switches and routers with an IP fabric, as well as the move to software-defined networking, while it virtualized and automated nearly every network and business process.
Amazon, too, undertook a massive network redesign and build-out as it created Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS was designed from the ground up to be the foundation for Amazon’s core business, and it has evolved to become a new multi-billion-dollar web services company in its own right.
Why do networks matter so much to companies like this? Because for a digital business model, the network is critical to delivering rapid innovation and differentiated value to customers. These companies create unmatched competitive advantage through their network infrastructure, starting with how fast they can create and deliver new services and capabilities to their users and their employees.
They change, add, delete, mix and match at will to enable new services, new customer features, even new business models on the fly. They try, learn, iterate, tune and optimize over and over and over, tens of thousands of times a day. This creates an enormous competitive advantage in innovation speed, learning speed, and time to revenue.
These Network-Haves recognized early the importance of having a network that was a platform for innovation. Their results speak for themselves.