Companies overwhelmingly plan to upgrade their networks, but they lack network engineering chops and modernization projects are busting their budgets, according to an Asperitas Consulting survey.

Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter

February 10, 2023

4 Min Read
Network of connection modernization over clouds in the sky showing concept of digital network of global connections
Pitinan Piyavatin via Alamy Stock

Organizations across many industries clearly have network modernization on their to-do lists, but challenges such as steep costs and a lack of key skills hold them back, according to the results of a study called “Current State of Network Modernization” released Feb. 9 by Asperitas Consulting, a cloud services company.

Although 86% of the network operators or administrators surveyed planned to modernize their network, only 5% had fully done so, the study revealed. In addition, 51% of the respondents said their companies had only finished less than half of their network modernization projects.

For the study, Asperitas commissioned research firm PureSpectrum to interview 250 network administrators or operators at companies in multiple industries with at least 1,000 employees. The cloud is a central component to network modernization. Organizations modernize their networks with cloud software and service providers to achieve increased agility, flexibility, and scalability, according to Asperitas.

In addition, 35% of the respondents highlighted increased availability of the network and its services as an incentive to modernize. When it comes to the meaning of network modernization, 41% of the network operators cited ease of integration with outside services such as public clouds or software as a service, while 19% mentioned ease of enhancements and scale, and 18% called out the need to secure a network.

Obstacles of Costs and Skills Hamper Network Modernization

Network modernization brings a steeper bill than refreshing a single application, and survey results on costs were an eye-opener, according to Scott Wheeler, cloud practice lead at Asperitas.

“Surprisingly one of the largest challenges for network modernization is getting the funds to do the work,” Wheeler tells InformationWeek. “What we have seen is that it is often difficult to get money for infrastructure projects like network modernization, as they address a core enterprise capability (networking) rather than a specific software application, which is much easier to associate with a business outcome.”

In fact, the respondents said an enterprise would likely spend between 5% and 15% of its IT budget on a network modernization project.

In addition, respondents mentioned a lack of skills as a key challenge when tackling network modernization. They highlighted network engineering, network architecture, project management and security architecture as the skills most in need.

“Often there are not enough internal resources with the skills to do the work, and often there aren’t enough qualified partners to assist in doing the work,” Wheeler says.

5G, Cloud WAN to Lead Future Network Modernization

The Asperitas survey revealed what network administrators and operators foresee for networking trends in the future. In fact, 37% of respondents highlighted 5G/mobile edge as a top network trend, and 31% of IT experts surveyed mentioned cloud WAN as a leading trend. Meanwhile, 21% called out edge computing enablement as a top trend, and 12% chose SD-WAN.

However, these results surprised the Asperitas team, according to Wheeler.

“Thirty-seven percent working on 5G/mobile edge seemed very high, and 12% for SD-WAN seemed low,” he says.

Companies such as IBM and Ericsson have promoted 5G as a key ingredient in network modernization. For example, Ericsson has worked with partners in the European Union’s Service Oriented Grid for the Network of the Future (SOGNO) initiative to explore how 5G can modernize the energy industry through automation and data-driven monitoring.

Prioritize Goal Setting, Holistic Strategy

To modernize an aging IT system, tech leaders should be clear about what they want to accomplish with the infrastructure, according to Wheeler.

“To address the challenges around network modernization, it is important that a CIO define clear goals on what is required from network modernization,” Wheeler says. “Is it network availability/stability, speed of making changes, security, other? Often this guidance is left out of a network modernization effort, and the network team is left to make assumptions on what is needed from a network modernization effort.”

He also stresses the need for a holistic approach to network modernization to overcome the financial barriers to the upgrades.

“The only way we have seen organizations modernize their network while avoiding obstacles and minimizing costs would be to take a holistic approach and get assistance from individuals or vendors that have successfully done this work before,” Wheeler says. “Get alignment from the entire organization on what the priorities should be for the network modernization effort.”

What to Read Next:

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IT Modernization: Ask Not Why, But Why Not?

9 Tips for Modernizing Aging IT Systems

About the Author(s)

Brian T. Horowitz

Contributing Reporter

Brian T. Horowitz is a technology writer and editor based in New York City. He started his career at Computer Shopper in 1996 when the magazine was more than 900 pages per month. Since then, his work has appeared in outlets that include eWEEK, Fast Company, Fierce Healthcare, Forbes, Health Data Management, IEEE Spectrum, Men’s Fitness, PCMag, Scientific American and USA Weekend. Brian is a graduate of Hofstra University. Follow him on Twitter: @bthorowitz.

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