While the benefits of modernising networks are clear - reduce network footprint, energy and support costs; scale to support new apps, services and use cases; and enhance end-customer experience - there are also significant change management and service continuity challenges to get over. In an attempt to avoid disruption, or in an attempt to extend ROI on their existing assets, many service providers simply limp on with their legacy infrastructure.

This common strategy of delaying modernisation projects and building new overlay networks on old infrastructure has more or less worked until now, but time is running out.

So, what’s changed and why is the network modernisation conversation more urgent now?

There are lots of reasons why many are now at a critical point with legacy infrastructure, and why network modernisation is now a matter of urgency:

1) Legacy networks are increasing technology and business risks - In the past, it was possible to keep older legacy infrastructure running without too much trouble. However, we’re getting to the stage where overbuilding new networks on legacy kit is no longer an option, mostly because the risk of failure is too great. In some cases, equipment is so old and spare parts so scarce that the infrastructure is no longer supportable.

2) Legacy skills are dying out, leaving your operations vulnerable - Unfortunately many of the engineers who can work on outdated legacy platforms are retiring, with no one coming through to replace them. With limited resources – and manual management processes and paper records – managing and supporting legacy networks is increasingly difficult, requiring major changes and updates to ensure services are constantly available.

3) High network costs are eating into already slender margins - As margins on voice and data services continue to contract the industry is facing a mounting challenge in terms of balancing revenues vs. operating costs. You now need new ways to scale your networks cost effectively and to minimise ‘per-bit’ transport costs. Doing this quickly is the only way to protect your profits, both now and in the future.

4) New apps need more capacity than legacy networks can provide - The next-generation of bandwidth-hungry applications, from IoT and AI, to 5G backhaul, need agility for reliable delivery. To achieve this, networks need to provide scalability on demand to ensure that new services can be created, deployed and managed quickly and cost effectively.

5) Unpredictable demand peaks are getting bigger and more frequent - Finally, networks need to handle massive and unpredictable peaks in demand, requiring automation and self-aware network infrastructure. This includes the ability to handle one-off traffic peaks caused by scheduled online gaming tournaments or software patches that are deployed to millions of users simultaneously. To meet these demands, your bandwidth provisioning across the network needs to be automated from end-to-end – something that is difficult or impossible to achieve with legacy network technologies.

Most services providers have been talking about network modernisation with vendors and partners for years. We all know that replacing legacy networks with modern, efficient, scalable infrastructure can help you reduce your network footprint, reduce energy and support costs, and scale on demand to support bandwidth-intensive apps and use cases. This all means protecting margins, enhancing your customer experiences, and staying one step ahead of your competitors. Modernising your environment can also help you deliver far more bandwidth at the network edge – right where you need it to support consumer apps such as gaming, audio and video streaming, IoT, and – in the near future – 5G applications as well.

In the next post in this series, we look at the methodologies that now exist to make the network modernisation process as seamless and risk-free as possible.