When was the last time you thought about your network? In today’s fast-moving world of technology, enterprise network architecture has a cool factor similar to say, plumbing. It’s necessary, but it’s not a new shiny object in a world full of new shiny objects. And it’s not easy to show its value, as you could with a new supply chain management or customer relationship management system.

So if your legacy network seems to be working, it’s tempting to have an “if it ain’t broke” attitude. The network hums along in the background. No one notices or wants to think about it. Everything keeps moving.

Until something goes wrong.

And when it does, the consequences can be devastating. Security vulnerabilities. Work stoppages. Unhappy employees and customers. Massive time and money lost trying to fix it.

What’s at stake

Though many organizations choose to run this risk, that does not mean it’s advisable. The potential risks of operating with a legacy enterprise network are too big to avoid, but many people are unaware of what’s at stake.

Legacy networks are more vulnerable to external, and now internal, threats. This leaves organizations on the defensive when they should be thinking about Cloud First innovation and next-gen experiences, which will also be stymied by a legacy network.

Let’s consider three of the biggest risks lurking when you don’t modernize an enterprise network.

1. Ongoing tech debt

Many clients are saddled with technology from the 90s or 2000s.

“I’ve got the network I can afford, not the network I want,” they say. “I get that there’s risk in my network, and it’s ancient, but I don’t want to disrupt it,” they say.

They think transitioning to a modern network is riskier than an outage.

Understandable, but unacceptable. Not only are you missing a world of opportunities to move deeper into the Cloud Continuum, but using duct tape to patch up a legacy network will only work for so long and only goes so far.

Eventually, the cost of your network complexity will surpass the cost of replacing it.

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And that tech debt—the failure to evolve and adapt new capabilities—will catch up with you. If you replace an old router with another old router, refusing to evolve the architecture, you may one day be unable to find the right equipment or people to work on it. You don’t know when it’s going to fail, and when it does, there may not be anything immediately available to replace it.

An outage caused by outdated network equipment can be major, resulting in multi-day downtime and significant financial and productivity impacts. Delaying action only invites greater risk, including security threats.

2. Additional security risks

Most legacy network architectures were built to protect against something on the outside coming in. The thinking was, “If I protect my perimeter and assume all on the inside is safe, I’m good.” But that’s no longer the case.

Today, organizations need to operate with a zero-trust policy, because most threats come from the inside. Most legacy networks aren’t prepared to meet these kinds of cyber threats, which cause massive business disruption and give hackers access to sensitive, private data.

Organizations need to shift from yesteryear’s “Trust but verify” to a more adaptive “Never trust, always verify” mindset. With this approach, you limit access to data and resources by evaluating users, applications and devices on a need-to-know basis. In this new model, identity is the new perimeter.

Legacy networks and systems simply weren’t built to proactively find these new-age cyberthreats from within. Modern zero-trust networks are.

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Eventually, the cost of your network complexity will surpass the cost of replacing it.

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Modern networks have more to offer than lower security risk. In regulated industries like financial services, the amount of time clients spend on compliance is mind-boggling. New network architectures allow organizations to follow regulations with the press of a button.

Further, a solid security foundation enables better experiences and accelerates innovation by removing the “great inhibitor” of heavy-handed security controls. When security is woven into the fabric of the network, you securely enable greater system and business performance.

3. Fewer cloud innovation opportunities

Moving to a software-defined, zero-trust network allows you to do things you couldn’t do in a legacy environment. It’s easier to automate. For example, cloud-native functions not only allow you to get more value out of cloud, they also simplify security and alignment to dynamic business requirements. You can make changes easily and quickly adapt to new situations and conditions.

With modern networks, you can capture data to feed back to central controllers. This gives you visibility into every element of your processes, which you can use to think ahead in order to:

  • Identify anomalies and see where something may break.
  • Switch from predictive to a more proactive stance so you can auto-remediate when needed.
  • Be ready to tackle whatever arises.

Case in point

Consider the pandemic: Organizations with modern networks up and running immediately enabled employees to work on whatever, wherever. But businesses with legacy networks were crippled when users couldn’t easily work from home. It took weeks and weeks to get people operational. That cost millions, and it frustrated employees and customers alike.

Your network can also derail your cloud initiatives. One European company was forced to reboot years of cloud efforts for the simple fact that their network couldn’t deliver the performance needed to support it.

Lastly, whereas legacy networks have always been about niche skills, cloud-native functions are more intuitive, with a consistent look and feel that makes them more user-friendly. Complexity may have created a lot of jobs, but those are going away. That means you need fewer niche employees, and software developers can manage more with less.

Don’t miss your date with innovation

Sticking with a legacy network might seem easier, but the easy road includes a toll of ballooning maintenance costs and ever-greater risk. At some point, the toll must be paid. The only question is, “How much will it cost?” Living day-to-day relying on that aging network is truly a risky business.

Think of modernizing your networks as a case of opportunity versus risk. Modern networks operate more efficiently and are more secure. It’s also the only way to fully unleash the innovation and value of the Cloud Continuum.

The good news? Modernizing isn’t as hard as you might think. A few years ago, there were five to 10 network products and services provided by the cloud hyperscalers. Now, there are over a hundred. And third-party software solutions that help manage functions across multiple clouds have improved. Countless companies have transitioned and found success.

There are plenty of ways to implement a modern network without disruption, at a pace that meets the needs of your business. Companies embracing this approach are reaping the benefits. They’re seeing significantly reduced network operating costs. They’re up to 50% more secure. And most importantly, they’re more agile and ready to meet new business demands in a world full of unknowns. The time for a modern network is here and now.

Ryan Wickham

Lead – Enterprise Networks Go-To-Market, Cloud First


Martin Glowik

Managing Director – Applied Cybersecurity Services, Accenture

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