Phasing out corporate networks
A radically new approach to consuming network services.
Accenture’s corporate network is critical to connecting our workforce of more than 500,000 employees across 120 countries and over 700 locations. For this reason, we have made significant and consistent investment in our network, driving continuous innovation and transformation to achieve improved agility and experiences for our ever-fluid workforce.
Before the cloud, we managed thousands of applications and huge volumes of data across private networks. The private data centers running them were expensive to maintain, had finite, fixed capacity, and required a large and highly specialized workforce to operate them.
With the growth of cloud, Accenture migrated 95% of its business to the cloud. Making this move was a major—and positive—change. The transition 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. Now, 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 corporate networks with the internet enabling the “last mile.”
This approach creates the possibility to do something that no other enterprise has done to our knowledge at our scale and complexity: phasing out our private network completely.
To make our vision a reality, we’re undertaking a transformation program to fully operate as an “internet-only” network whether our people are working at home or at an Accenture office. Our strategy is to use the internet only as the primary method of connection and cloud provider services (software-as-a-service [SaaS]) to replace traditional corporate connectivity. 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.
"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."
— MERIM BECIROVIC, Managing Director – Global IT, Enterprise Architecture, Accenture
Most organizations build and own private networks to govern two important factors: security and experience. As we evaluated moving away from a private network, our global IT teams assessed how we could reimagine these key dimensions:
Leveraging internet only and cloud SaaS, we rethought our security strategy holistically. We refocused on securing our end points and data without having to own and secure the transport. This approach reduces the number of intrinsic attack vectors while sustaining the highest level of security for our intellectual property.
By having to use a private network, our people are restricted by default to limited capacity. Permanently uncoupling from a private network will enable us to make use of the inherent availability and unlimited capacity of the internet, creating optimal experiences anytime, everywhere.
Our assessment led us to confirm a network strategy to eliminate Accenture’s use of the private network. This strategy will afford us not only a secure network solution but also one that provides our workforce an optimal digital experience. This strategy is translating into reality as we build upon our internet-only and cloud-network capabilities.
Our journey involves aggressively migrating all Accenture locations to direct internet connections. In doing so, we are decreasing the size of the network (WAN) core and the number of our cloud connectivity locations. We’re also migrating our core services from our backbone to cloud SaaS.
We are in the process of removing the last few remaining dependencies on our private backbone. This final effort will move Accenture to a completely internet-powered network, enabling optimal experiences for our highly distributed workforce. An exception to this is some parts of our global IT footprint and time-sensitive applications that require guaranteed delivery and performance. In these instances, we are using cloud provider backbones and edge compute solutions.
Imperatives guiding our journey
Guiding our efforts on our journey are four strategic imperatives:
We assume all networks are untrusted by default. For this reason, we encrypt all traffic and use multi-factor authentication on all our applications.
We’re collapsing network functions into software to manage our network architecture and using code for provisioning and compliance. These code-driven operations are 100% automated and vendor/appliance agnostic.
We’re using variable consumption-based networks that provide elasticity based on real-time demand to give our people the ability to work remotely from anywhere at any time.
To simplify provisioning while providing consistency and governance, we are building repeatable, templatized patterns for our network architectures. These patterns will reduce network architecture build times for new offices, onboarding length for acquisitions, and allow for automated, low-effort change.
Accenture’s network transformation journey to phase out our entire private network is well under way. Fundamentally, this move toward commodity-based connectivity powered by internet-only and cloud services simplifies all aspects of our network. It will be more secure, less complex, and higher performing.
The transformation to this new concept enables us to reduce fixed costs and an asset-heavy core that limits business agility. It also enables us to operate in a highly optimized consumption model, only paying for what we need with supply aligned to demand in real time. In the end, our 500,000 people will have a smoother and consistent experience that we will continue to build upon.
As we implement our network transformation, we’re realizing the following benefits:
"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."
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
Allows our people to work anywhere while providing protection for end points and data, reducing our attack surface area and protecting our reputation
A consistent connectivity approach regardless of location coupled with more direct access to applications and content improves the user experience
Negating the need to connect offices to a private backbone simplifies office design, improves deployment time, and eases operational impact
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
Unique network users
Managed network devices
Daily employee authentications