Rethinking Accenture’s enterprise network
A radically new approach to consuming network services.
Accenture’s enterprise network has been critical to connecting our workforce of 710,000 employees serving clients across 120 countries to our business applications and collaboration tools. For this reason, we have made major and consistent investment to grow, morph and improve our enterprise network. This resulted in a global private network of considerable size and complexity with significant operational overhead.
In recent years, business change has accelerated exponentially with dramatic changes in workforce fluidity, the pace of technology evolution and increasing cyber threats. Many organizations are adopting cloud technologies to be able to address the impact of this rapid change for application and content hosting.
But what about the enterprise network? While cloud workloads are able to flex to meet demand in real time, enterprise networks are still largely fixed and slow to respond to demand fluctuations. They are also being pushed harder than ever as entire continuums of cloud solutions exist across organizations today. Companies need new cloud-enabled networks to seamlessly connect the dynamic capabilities of the Cloud Continuum—from public through edge and everything in between.
Massive change is happening in the world of networks, largely driven by cloud. Every enterprise needs secure and reliable networks to operate. Our Global IT organization saw Accenture’s global enterprise network as a potential limiting factor for growth, so we developed a program to address the need for a more agile network, future-focused sustainability, reduced cost, and a refocusing of our people running our current network.
The move of nearly all of Accenture’s IT infrastructure to the hybrid cloud presented an opportunity to not only modernize applications but to significantly disrupt our network approach to a radically new one of extensive cloud service consumption. With nearly all our business applications “internet facing” and most Accenture offices connected to the internet, the reality is that cloud connectivity can replace traditional enterprise networks with the internet enabling the “last mile.”
This approach is creating the possibility to do something that no other enterprise, to our knowledge, has done at our scale and complexity: phasing out our private enterprise network completely.
Cities with Accenture locations and operations
Unique network users
Managed network devices
Daily employee authentications
To make our vision a reality, we’re undertaking a transformation program to fully operate as a cloud-enabled network wherever our people are working. Our approach is to use internet as the primary method of connection and cloud provider services (software-as-a-service [SaaS]) to replace traditional enterprise connectivity. This is the future of cloud-enabled organizations.
Our program is unfolding along several dimensions:
We’re eliminating our reliance on enterprise data centers. Our strategy is to make the best use of cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) services for all our business applications and content and make them accessible natively over the internet. Although the internet performance is not guaranteed, we are finding that the abundance of capacity and direct routing is serving our workforce better than backhauling traffic to a private network that will always have finite capacity and may not offer optimal paths to cloud/SaaS services.
We’re also in the process of changing the connectivity in all our office locations from attaching to our private core to a cloud-enabled network.
We’re decreasing the size of the network core and the number of our cloud connectivity locations. A huge challenge in phasing out an enterprise network is removing all the applications, services, tools, and content that are connected to it. In Accenture’s case, this equates to thousands of migrations to cloud and SaaS services, and in some cases, a complete replacement of how those services is delivered and consumed. The last of the remaining applications and services to either cloud or edge compute solutions. We will retain a very small private network core (one location per geographic region) until all dependencies have been completely removed.
The final effort will move Accenture to a completely commoditized network, enabling true agility and optimized experiences for our highly distributed workforce.
Our approach is innovative in that we are phasing out the concept of a traditional network and instead taking full advantage of the cloud WAN and consuming a global infrastructure as a service like everything else supported in the cloud. We have redefined what our architecture needs to be in order to support Accenture’s connectivity needs globally.
In the process, we have found creative ways to replace a number of the services typically hosted in a core network:
“Connectivity is at the core of a digital business. As cloud has forced a paradigm shift in how digital businesses provide their services, it will also force a shift in how we think about flexible and secure connectivity.”
Transforming enterprise networks is a must for companies replatforming their business on cloud and developing new solutions at the edge. Moreover, the next generation of mobile networks will be built on cloud. Cloud-enabled networks are more open, agile, more secure, and offer greater experience.
Accenture’s enterprise network transformation program is well under way. The move toward commodity-based connectivity powered by the internet and cloud services simplifies all aspects of our network. It will be more secure, less complex, and higher performing.
Security will be enhanced by placing identity at the core of our cloud security. It is the new firewall. It involves basing access on identity. Identity also fundamentally drives zero trust. Zero trust does not mean not trusting anything. Instead, zero trust is the proper and continuous validation between systems and points of access of activity of people.
Our network transformation is projected to reduce our asset-heavy core and fixed costs. The change enables us to operate in a highly optimized consumption model, only paying for what we need with supply aligned to demand in real time. We’ll gain business agility from having an enterprise network that is highly consumable with capacity that can flex up and down in real time. And we’ll ease the impact on our workforce through greater consolidation and upskilling developers by enabling them to directly write code to provision cloud network services, omitting intermediate players.
Our transformation will also generate the untapped potential of reducing Accenture’s carbon footprint by eliminating hundreds of network assets hosted in dozens of hosting facilities around the world. By moving away from a fixed private network to using shared networks, we will only consume the network resources—and associated carbon footprint—that is required.
Benefits of our network transformation:
Cost-effective Shifting most of our traffic directly to the internet rather than using a private core, decreases cost per unit by aligning capacity to business demand.
Cost reductions Positions Accenture for an estimated cost savings of $15‒$20 million per year.
Secure by design Allows our people to work anywhere while providing protection for end points and data, reducing our attack surface area and protecting our reputation.
Business agility Phasing out a heavy and passive network environment supports Accenture’s ability to innovate as fast as desired.
User experience A consistent connectivity approach regardless of location coupled with more direct access to applications and content improves the user experience.
Simplified design Negating the need to connect offices to a private backbone simplifies office design, improves deployment time, and eases operational impact.
Sustainability Moving away from static networks that are built for peak loads to a consumption model that is aligned to real-time demand reduces our carbon footprint.
“Driving toward internet and cloud only allows us to use the inherent infinite capacity of these services to reimagine the future of our workforce’s experience.”
Estimated operations effort savings per year at time of completion
Estimated circuit and hosting savings per year at time of completion