An evolutionary leap in networks

Traditional network architectures are failing to support organisations reaching for a cloud-first strategy. Now, Global Fabric will make a cloud-centric future possible.

An evolutionary leap in networks

Traditional network architectures are failing to support organisations reaching for a cloud-first strategy. Now, Global Fabric will make a cloud-centric future possible.

Colin BannonChief Technology Officer, Business, BT

The future is cloud-centric. Global organisations know it and have been carefully planning their digital transformation strategies so they can stake their claim on this new operational plane. They’re embracing new technologies and processes to operate successfully in the cloud.

However, taking a true cloud-first approach is one large step further. A crucial part of this involves embracing the scale of cloud connections needed, and managing the complexity of connecting to the hyperscalers and other cloud-based applications.

Unsurprisingly, many organisations are finding making this shift more difficult than they expected. Frustration is rising, as they try to make current network architectures support the high-bandwidth, low latency, and on-demand requirements necessary for effective cloud-centric working.

Traditional site-to-site network architectures are rarely set up to support the connectivity and multi-cloud, multi-edge ecosystems that are the future of operations. Some organisations have adapted their networks to cope well, but it’s uncertain how far into the future these adaptations will hold, as demands increase. 

However, the network is just saying ‘no’ for many more organisations. 

To break this impasse, networking must evolve. Recognising this shifting need of our customers, we set about addressing it. 

After carefully listening to our customers, assessing the market’s direction of travel and consulting leading analysts, we invested in driving a leap in networking. The result is Global Fabric – the network for today’s and tomorrow’s needs.

Five factors making a cloud-first strategy hard for current networks

Knowing that 86% of organisations plan to move most or all of their IT infrastructure and applications to the cloud within the next five years, we set out to create a network ready to meet their needs. 

As part of the process, we commissioned independent customer research to give us a close view of the global network experience. A complex scenario emerged where factors intertwine to create significant blocks to cloud-first networking.

1. They lack operational flexibility

Costly over-provisioning is often necessary to ensure the network can meet capacity demands. Having a flexible approach is impossible when you have long lead times for service changes. 

Inflexibility also takes the form of thin point of presence (PoP) architecture and metro coverage. For example, if ExpressRoute fails, customers see spikes in latency associated with re-routing traffic via a different metro or cloud region.

2. It’s hard to manage costs

With the global economic slowdown and increased uncertainty, commercial flexibility is priceless. However, long-term, fixed contracts are common in networks. This limits organisations' ability to switch between services such as IP VPN to the internet while consuming those services on a PAYG basis.

Total cost of ownership is often inflated by architectures that require separate physical devices for each service, and by the expense of circuit over-provisioning. 

When data is moved out of a hyperscaler environment, it often incurs egress charges. These are costs associated with transferring data from the public cloud to the public internet – and the charges can quickly add up, especially when large volumes of data are being moved.

Optimal cloud network design and monitoring of your cloud usage will help you avoid a bill shock.

3. Poor application performance

Organisations aren’t confident that their networks can deliver the always-on connectivity essential to business as usual, when workloads are distributed across a digital supply chain.

Currently, network limitations are stopping 65% of organisations from deploying new business applications. Extra latency and limited performance monitoring threaten application availability. Poor underlay performance and interoperability issues also affect how applications function.

4. Cyber-risk and observing data sovereignty are increasingly challenging

91% of business and IT leaders identify improving data security and data sovereignty as a likely technical reason for a network upgrade. They recognise that integrating the security controls (to protect against the increased cyber-risks of operating in the cloud) into traditional network architectures is difficult, and not always possible.

Since the traditional network perimeter has evaporated, security has become about protecting data wherever it resides and controlling access based on authentication and authorisation. Organisations want a network that supports the security controls necessary to implement a Zero Trust approach.

Data sovereignty is also a significant motivator for change. The further organisations move into a distributed edge environment, the more urgent it becomes to ensure data complies with sovereignty regulations. However, without the ability to control end-to-end routes, it’s difficult to geo-fence data or choose pathways that avoid sensitive countries. This challenge highlights a general requirement for a network enabling intent-based policy and strategy.

5. They can’t support the next step in sustainability

Organisations understand the importance of building networks capable of supporting their sustainability goals, with 94% of business and IT leaders accepting sustainability considerations as an essential part of their IT and network infrastructure strategyAs a part of their ongoing sustainability journey, global organisations are focused on improving the energy consumption and efficiency of their third-party services, to reduce their Scope 3 emissions.

Data centres and transmission networks are responsible for nearly 1% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. However, most providers of these services can’t provide visibility into their energy usage, holding back users’ sustainability progress.

Global Fabric – connecting you to everything

Our experts and analysts predicted the scale and impact of these cloud-centric challenges; behind the scenes, we’ve been inventing the future by pioneering a network to drive a new era of connectivity.

The result is Global Fabric, a revolution in cloud networking. It’s set to reshape how organisations operate for decades to come. Global Fabric will finally unlock the full promise of a cloud-centric world.

Global Fabric is an end-to-end programmable platform that seamlessly connects you to the cloud and between where you operate in public and private clouds. It overcomes the stumbling blocks traditional network architectures encounter, when moving their computing infrastructure to the public cloud to work in a ‘cloud-first’ way. 

With Global Fabric, you'll be able to can shape your network to fit your needs, rather than making do with what traditional networks can support. It’s an infrastructure that will stitch together cloud-like operational flexibility, cost optimisation, enhanced application performance and data sovereignty compliance, aligned security controls and increased sustainability*.  

We’ve made this investment, developing technology that’s responsible and more sustainable*, so that you can set your cloud ambitions free. Global Fabric is ready to help you accelerate your growth and move into advanced applications.

If you take away nothing else about Global Fabric, remember that if you’re connected to it, you’re connected to everything that matters.

Global Fabric and sustainability – key figures

Using the Greenhouse Gas Protocol ICT Sector Guidance by Gesi, BT has generated the following estimates:

  • In use, Global Fabric will consume 8,326 MWh/year versus its existing international networks at 39,890 MWh/year – a 79% reduction.
  • Use stage gross carbon, including PUE, will be 2,964 tonCO2e/year for Global Fabric versus 13,596 tonCO2e/year for BT’s existing international networks – a 78% reduction.
  • Global Fabric’s embodied emissions will be 363 tonCO2e/year versus its existing international networks 2,185 tonCO2e/year – an 83% reduction.
  • This gives a total carbon in use plus embodied carbon figure of 3,327 for Global Fabric versus its existing international networks at 15,781 tonCO2e/year – a 78% reduction.
  • BT estimates the average power consumption of Global Fabric will be 787 Watts per device, versus 2,201 Watts per device for its existing international networks.
  • Moreover, Global Fabric will be built using 1,326 devices versus 1,571 devices – a 16% reduction.