For corporate IT, reliable connectivity can be a considerable challenge. Public clouds, private clouds, public networks, private networks, SaaS applications, self-hosted applications, on-premises data centers, and thousands of scattered managed and unmanaged devices... All of these need to securely connect to each other for organizations to remain productive. And historically, they must do so through a combination of MPLS routes, leased lines, public Internet connections, VPNs, LANs, and WANs.
These complex environments have become commonplace. But, compatibility issues, compliance requirements, and the use of multiple vendors with disparate technology stacks makes connecting everybody and everything nearly impossible. Technology teams have found themselves struggling to maintain the existing environment, while being short of resources to design an architecture that enables business growth.
Instead of adding value, IT has been treading water.
Businesses need easy, fast, and secure connectivity for their networks, clouds, and endpoints, irrespective of where the connection takes place or what is being connected. And IT needs to be able to focus on building process, policy, and infrastructure for the future, not just the present.
In other words, businesses and their IT teams need "any-to-any" connectivity: any user, any device, to any network and any app. And they need to eliminate sources of networking complexity in order to address their diverse networking needs.
The challenges faced by technology teams today led a Head of SRE and Cloud Technology to remark, "Just keeping people online [creates] a series of administrative bottlenecks."
In 2023, Forrester Research conducted a survey looking at the effects of a more complicated digital environment. Out of 449 surveyed IT decision-makers, 39% said "they feel they are losing control." And it's no wonder — with another study finding that businesses with a thousand or more employees use, on average, over 150 unique SaaS applications.
It's not just the number of applications or the types of networks that are growing in variety. According to that same Forrester survey, "48% of respondents say they are struggling to support evolving user types and a growing number of users."
Adding a range of users tying up IT resources to an already complex environment leads to more than an inconvenience or an administrative challenge: it's an active drag on the business. These issues, according to Forrester, will impact, "employee experience, productivity, competitive advantage, time to market, and ... overall risk profile."
Any-to-any connectivity describes an environment in which any cloud, data center, or network can easily interconnect, and organizational security policies are enforced, all without friction for users or compatibility issues for the underlying infrastructure. In other words, an employee can open up their device and start working — anytime, anywhere. And IT can onboard new users and provision new capabilities by enabling services, greatly reducing the time to productivity.
With networks and clouds operating in different places, is there any unifying model that makes this possible?
The solution lies in a dedicated "connectivity layer": one that is Internet-native but compatible with on-premises networks and infrastructure, and globally distributed to reach the modern workforce. This connectivity layer must be able to support users, devices, and applications across the organization’s on-premises and cloud-based infrastructure.
58% of IT leaders, according to Forrester, say this type of any-to-any connectivity would boost productivity. An additional 48% state any-to-any connectivity would cut IT costs. More productivity, fewer costs: sounds like a strong path forward.
With any-to-any connectivity, IT could dedicate less time to ensuring connectivity and reliability, and more time to building the infrastructure to support future initiatives. And the rest of the business can expand and innovate as fast as it wants. That can include onboarding more users securely while simultaneously building new features and services on a global network — as one software company utilizing any-to-any connectivity found.
Organizations with any-to-any connectivity are prepared for the expansion of cloud computing, a return of in-office work, or any other unprecedented environmental shift.
Boosted productivity, fewer bottlenecks, and less wasted time are all worthy goals. But more than that, they have major impacts on time devoted to innovation, and subsequently on a business's ability to keep up with or surpass its competition.
Cloudflare built the first connectivity cloud that delivers any-to-any connectivity: a unified, intelligent platform of programmable cloud-native services. While its capabilities go beyond this, what’s important from a networking perspective is that it is essentially a platform for connecting anything to anything. For example, a remote worker on a laptop with a public Internet connection can connect to an on-premise server over any-to-any connectivity, via a secure, programmable, infrastructure-agnostic network.
The Cloudflare connectivity cloud enables IT to take back control: of their environments, of access management, and of their time.
This article is part of a series on the latest trends and topics impacting today’s technology decision-makers.
Learn more about how a new type of cloud can tame IT and security complexity in the Regaining control with a connectivity cloud Forrester research.
After reading this article you will be able to understand:
Why the complex digital environment has become a drag on business
What is meant by any-to-any connectivity
How simplifying connectivity results in recovery of lost productivity and faster innovation