The life sciences industry sits at the cross-section of virtually all the technological advancements driving today’s economy. Not only is it steeped in cutting-edge chem-bio research and development, it relies heavily on advanced computing infrastructure to support massive data analytics and modeling.
At the same time, it remains a heavily regulated industry that must cope with substantial and constantly changing rules and regulations imposed by dozens of jurisdictions around the world. To top it off, it must maintain complex and massive sales, marketing and related business administration processes required of today’s interconnected and highly competitive economy.
One Network to Bind Them
Connecting all of these disparate functions is the digital network. Networks literally touch every aspect of the enterprise, both internally and externally. Unfortunately, while the life sciences industry has made dramatic investments in almost every facet of its business model, it has faltered when it comes to modernizing its network infrastructure.
Networking is the circulatory system at any organization, of course, but in life sciences, the need for efficient, effective communications is particularly urgent. As traditional business processes and models transform into agile, data-driven entities, network modernization will spell the difference between success and failure. To put it plainly, if you want to remain competitive, you must upgrade your network stack.
In many ways, today’s aging network is the result of its own success. Fear of upgrading the network runs rampant in many organizations for the simple reason that it connects every data system and process on a fundamental level. If the network goes down, work comes to a halt. For this reason, most organizations are loathe to implement major network upgrades for fear of disrupting critical workflows and diminishing productivity overall.
But maintaining the status quo is equally bad. It’s the equivalent of relying on dirt roads when the rest of the world has moved on to superhighways, and air travel. By not investing in network modernization, the enterprise relegates itself to the digital platforms of the past – and in a vibrant, quickly evolving field like life sciences, this is a sure path to obsolescence.
The goal, therefore, is to upgrade network infrastructure quickly, but in the least disruptive manner. Fortunately, with today’s software-based network architectures and platforms, this is not only possible but is in fact far easier and less costly than the physical upgrades required in the past. At the same time, organizations can reduce their reliance on single-vendor solutions in favor of more modular architectures that can be optimized for unique workflows and business objectives.
For example, imagine a network consisting of numerous components from a myriad of vendors – whatever works best for you – but managed under a single operating system. This is entirely possible with open APIs and intelligent monitoring and control systems that greatly reduce the number one cause of network downtime: human error. With machines able to track network performance metrics on a highly granular level, and then effect repairs on other machines autonomously, previously hidden problems can be identified and corrected before service is impacted to a noticeable degree. With this self-driving, self-healing network, downtime is all but eliminated and network teams are freed from the rote, mundane tasks of network management so they can direct their efforts toward more creative endeavors that add greater value to the business model.
Efficient and Effective
Another troubling aspect of legacy network infrastructure is the issue of resource allocation. Most networks are over-provisioned so as to provide the necessary overhead to handle sudden spikes in traffic. During periods of normal activity, these systems sit idle even though they continue to draw energy and attention from monitoring and management tools. A modern network architecture has the ability to instantly provision and decommission network hardware based on real-time data flows, which lowers operational costs and extends the lifecycles of switches, routers and other gear.
Taking this a step further, today’s networks can monitor all manner of business tools and resources – from – manufacturing equipment to raw materials to finished products – to provide key insight into virtually all facets of the business model. This, in turn, enables the enterprise to eliminate waste and optimize supply chains, workflows and other processes toward greater efficiency and lower operating costs. Ultimately, this environment can lead to innovative solutions that can not only deliver improved products, or perhaps entirely new ones, but also faster time-to-market, the development of new sales channels and revenue streams, and even the creation of completely new business models.
This, in fact, is the primary reason network modernization should become a top priority in the life sciences industry. Not only does it produce new and better ways to transfer data, but lays the foundation for a wide range of entirely new applications that contribute directly to the bottom line. In other words, the network is no longer a cost center but a profit generator.
Few organizations have the in-house skills or knowledge to implement this kind of transformation on their own, of course. This is why choosing an experienced vendor is crucial – one that has a proven track record of developing cutting-edge technology and has the capacity to provide white-glove treatment throughout the entire process, from engineering support to training and educational services.
And while time is of the essence, the transition still must follow a steady, methodical approach, starting with a thorough assessment of existing network infrastructure, current and future needs, and a staggered roll-out plan that maintains optimal connectivity between upgraded and legacy systems.
For too long, the life sciences industry has been held back by the limitations of legacy networks. If the data loads are too high, which is common in gene sequencing and research into safety and efficacy, then the work is delayed at best, and cancelled at worst. A modern, agile network removes these barriers and creates an operational state in which the only limitation is human imagination.
About Matt Roberts
Matt Roberts is the Healthcare Practice Leader at Juniper Networks, responsible for market growth, business development, and thought leadership within the health and life sciences segments. Prior to joining Juniper Networks, he spent six years at Brocade Communications in senior leadership roles developing and leading the execution of the company-wide global health and life-sciences strategy. Additionally, Matt worked at Cerner Corporation for 10 years in a wide variety of leadership and advisory roles integrating hardware, practice management and clinical software suites for hospitals and clinics throughout the US.