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Network Verticalization – Redefining Digital Economy

Network Verticalization – Redefining Digital Economy
February 17, 2021

Introduction

Think about a utopian world where all the devices and users are connected. It can be a bit overwhelming to figure out initially. But once you dwell in my thoughts, it would be much easier to conceptualize how this is soon going to be a reality.

Ever heard of Verticalized Networks or Network Services Verticalization?

‘Industrialized networks,’ or ‘verticalized networks,’ is the unsung hero of modern digital transformation initiatives. It offers a continuum of connectivity options that help vertical industries thrive in their operating models and develop new products and services. Traditionally, enterprise networks have lived in the shadow of IT teams. These were primarily responsible for system upgrades and adherence to service-level agreements such as uptime or downtime.

This is about to change.

Going forward, network deployments will primarily be driven by specific use cases, business requirements, and outcomes such as service consumption, and customer satisfaction. Indeed, “industri-fication” of networks will become the linchpin of network strategies. From a technical perspective, the modern-day enterprise network will become agile and segmented, with each segment having different connectivity and security needs. Also, the network backbone will now deliver multi-tenancy, low latency, and extended security segments across the globe.

“Industri-fication” of networks will become the linchpin of network strategies

What does it mean?

Business applications have a wide variety of requirements in terms of bandwidth, latency, availability, and security. On one end of the spectrum, there are applications such Over-the-top (OTT), telemedicine, and autonomous cars that require ultra-low latency, high bandwidth, and very high security. While applications such as street lighting, VoIP, among others, have moderate to low network requirements.

M2M applications with diverse networking requirements
Figure1 – M2M applications with diverse networking requirements

One of the most interesting changes in the design of next-generation networks, visible from the above infographic, is that vertical industries are very diverse. The requirements of vertical industries are dictated by characteristics of the related vertical.

Manufacturing

As Industry 4.0 is going to become a reality soon, manufacturers have already started to envision an intelligently connected facility that operates beyond the limitations of traditional networks.

But is it really happening?

Some of this may be happening in pockets. But none of this will happen without true digital convergence, i.e., using emerging technologies such as 5G network, WiFi 6 and IT/OT in conjunction with complementary technologies (SDN, SD-WAN, SD-LAN). A recent example would be General Motors, where the company has installed a dedicated 5G network at its electric vehicle assembly plant to create an advanced manufacturing hub. The smart campus supports manufacturing equipment and a multitude of user devices.

Another interesting area where a lot of manufacturers are significantly investing is geo fencing and asset tracking. Workers at large facilities waste significant amount of time looking for vehicles in parking areas and plants. For this, companies are using IoT-enabled tracking solutions, powered by private 5G networks. This triggers individual events and push notifications when a truck enters or leaves a specific location.

Retail and CPG

What is the first thing that comes to your mind while entering a retail store?

Discounts, your favorite counter, digital kiosks, and what not. Millennials have become demanding, and to address their ever-changing demands, retailers have transformed their business model too. The new business model, which includes a combination of offline and online delivery, is experiencing massive traffic as employees and customers connect to the same network.

To meet those demands and bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds, retailers have deployed intelligent retail solutions. These leverage a combination of latest WiFi 6 standards, video surveillance through IP cameras, and one-stop broadband connectivity. Using wireless access points and private 5G connectivity, they can now offer a personalized shopping experience at any corner of the store.

On the other hand, businesses with a large global presence can now manage all their stores with a centralized management console, all thanks to SD-WAN technology.

E-commerce giants and online retailers also utilize location analytics solutions, which analyze the users latched to their private network and in-store buying patterns to predict consumer behavior.

Hospitality

Travelers usually cherish their hotel experience and guest services during their stay. But not everyone. Some might experience unreliable and inconsistent network connectivity. Keeping this in mind, hotels incorporate leading mobility solutions that offer ubiquitous Wi-Fi coverage and support multiple devices and applications.

Mobility solutions, powered by private 5G connectivity and wireless access points, can help guests connect to services customized to their membership level, travel history, and general preferences. With real-time heat maps, hoteliers can visualize trends in guest density over time, and simultaneously make informed decisions around staffing, bandwidth consumption, and video surveillance.

With the latest WiFi 6 standards, which comes with zero-trust protection, guests can rest assured of their information and data security. In addition to this, many hotel chains have also installed panic button tags to optimize staff and visitor security operations.

Healthcare

Healthcare, today, has reached an inflection point, and we are all standing at the cusp of it. The physical health consultation has significantly transitioned to a virtual healthcare model. Everything has gone paperless, right from appointments, prescriptions to consultation. And networks are a critical piece of it.

Who would have imagined meeting a doctor over video!

The remote collaboration solutions, which requires robust wireless connectivity and low latency, is enabling doctors, physicians, and nurses to collaborate with patients via video conferencing solutions.

With growing demands for personalized healthcare, hospitals are ensuring reliable and secure connectivity. All the wired/wireline components can be viewed from a single, unified portal. Also, hospitals do not have to worry about frequent outages and scheduling upgrades. With policy-based management platforms, they can easily run any clinical application at any time they want.

With a surge in users, devices, and internal medical staff, it becomes difficult to have an integrated view. But with zero-trust security for every device and users, hospitals can breathe a sigh of relief.

The future

Before we conclude, we must introspect about the future of enterprise networking.

As we look to 2021, beyond the COVID-19, organizations will need a robust, integrated architecture for each domain. One that is tailored to address the specific requirements of that domain, provide seamless connectivity, and enforce consistent policy across all domains.

What does this mean for organizations?

  • Industry leaders will actively get involved in decision making, and finalize networking investments, other than CIO and CTOs.
  • Vendor landscape will fragment into industry-specific ecosystems and verticalized offerings.
  • Networking professionals will need to expand skillsets, re-engineer organization processes, and manage transformation and change.

Let us also be mindful of the increasing network complexities arising out of the width and depth of verticalized use cases. Enterprises looking for a progressive digital transformation would need a phased approach to this, starting from due diligence, forming a strategic business case, to collaborating with the right set of partners, and induce some degree of willingness to change.

As I have said, ‘industri-fication’ is an evolution, not a rapid transition exercise.

To learn how you can adopt verticalization and experience significant improvement in organizational efficiency, expense reduction, and customer experience, write to us at contact.ngn@hcl.com