Always-on global connectivity
From its initial role in helping organisations do things faster and more efficiently, there is no doubt that the role of technology has dramatically changed over the last decade. Today, IT and network have evolved to become an indispensable part of doing business, from online businesses to traditional retail stores. The increasing reach of global connectivity has removed the physical boundary for businesses to go global digitally.
Going offline is not acceptable
The heavy reliance on technology also means that outages are costlier than ever, with the price tag easily running into the millions, such as when airline servers crash, entertainment services go offline, or a popular ride-hailing service suffering from a three-hour glitch. The IT mishap at British Airway reportedly cost the airline £150m (US$206M), and this excludes the erosion of trust and negative impact on the brand reputation.
Elsewhere, the increasingly interconnected nature of services means that the brief outage at ride-hailing service, Grab, not only impacted riders, but also customers paying with the company’s GrabPay Credits for retail and F&B services in-store. Even applications slowdown can be detrimental to businesses too – an estimate pegged a single second of delay in site load time costing an Internet site 7% in conversions.
One non-negotiable linchpin to an always-on online service is reliable connectivity, and it will only grow more crucial in our new age of always-on mobile devices, along with the rise of network-centric technologies such as augmented reality and widespread deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. And as the various smart cities initiatives including Singapore’s Smart Nation masterplan gain momentum around the world, the demand for resilience networks is expected to increase further. Many enterprises who are highly reliant on connectivity are also going with network diversity and redundancy, to prevent a single point of failure during outages.
The continuing evolution
Unfortunately, traditional networking technologies such as Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) that have worked well for years may be less suited to meet the volatile demands and frequent changes to the network we are seeing now. Even the strategy of prioritising crucial data streams through the most reliable channels is losing its effectiveness, as the closely intertwined nature of modern IT infrastructure means that reliability is needed on practically every front.
Unsurprisingly, the result is a rapid adoption of networking technologies such as Software Defined Networking (SDN), which uses open protocols to route and manage enterprise-wide traffic from a central console. Yet despite the greater control that SDN offers from the segregation of control and data planes, overall network reliability is still dependent on the physical layer of the network infrastructure.
Indeed, there is no escape from the fact that modern networks are undergirded by the physical connectivity within both the network core and the edge, whether spanning a metro area, crossing cities or even connecting continents. The key to keeping systems functioning smoothly in all these cases is dependent on the availability of low-latency and highly reliable networks, with the latter offered by ample redundancy of physical routes.
Achieving always-on connectivity
Driven by the rapid increase in data usage globally, many telecommunications providers and consortiums have been racing to build out subsea cable capacity, particularly across the Asia-Pacific region. Also, network resilience has become the key focus to achieve always-on connectivity. It cuts through several thematic areas such as information and network, security, fault tolerance, software dependability and network survivability.
The sheer importance of the physical networks is the key reason why StarHub is investing heavily and continuously in fibre optic networks to every part of Singapore, giving businesses access to our highly-reliable networks right at their doorsteps. Globally, we have also invested in five key subsea cable systems, including AAG, APCN-2, ASE, JUS and APG, setting our commitment to deliver the most robust connectivity solutions to our customers.
Yet even subsea cables lying on the ocean bed can be severed or damaged by shipping vessels anchoring, shark bites, severe weather, or natural disasters such as earthquakes. The afternoon of August 27 last year, for instance, saw three separate subsea cables developing problems, most likely due to two separate tropical storms forecasted to hit the region that week.
The unpredictability of such outages represents a direct business risk for organisations that require minimum downtime. Unforeseen issues that impact subsea cables can result in downtime for business-critical services and can hit even organisations with redundant subsea cable.
Ultimately, the importance of mitigating unforeseeable risks to ensure that the business is always-on cannot be overstated.
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