Creating flexible IT infrastructure in a time of ambiguity

There is one thing that is certain right now – and that is nothing is certain. While recovery is universally agreed, the timings and rates vary wildly. To meet the challenge of the future, IT infrastructures must remain flexible by drawing on innovations such as cloud, as-a-service billing and SD-WAN.

Bill Gates summed up the current business landscape when he said, “recovery will take years and will be different country by country and industry by industry. But the economy and innovation will be back and on a great path.” To create a sustainable business that can tap into new opportunities, enterprises need to re-assess their digital and cloud journeys, ensuring they have the flexibility and applicability to deal with current and future environments.

This is backed up by Jorge Lopez, Distinguished VP Analyst at Gartner. He maintains that executive leaders should not only focus on threats to health and safety and the subsequent slowdown in business, “but should begin strategizing for the economic recovery that will follow.”

Creating a flexible infrastructure

Many enterprises have halted their digital transformation to reflect on their next moves. They want to ensure they have the flexibility and infrastructure resilience to deal with the aftermath of COVID-19 and deal with another crisis should it arise.

There are three key items that enterprises require to create a flexible infrastructure for their digital transformation. First, “as-a-service billing” for cost control and scalability; second, security embracing the same security policies and procedures wherever the user is accessing the network; and third, efficient access to the cloud.

Today, 100% of our customers have deployed some sort of cloud infrastructure. They must work out the best, most efficient and secure way of getting to the cloud from the corporate network based on the number of staff working from the office and home.

In creating a flexible infrastructure for the future, enterprises need to look at what infrastructure they have today and how it is secured and work out a way forward that addresses business needs. Infrastructures need to be multicloud ready, allowing apps to be created and deployed immediately. At the same time, security needs to be integrated into every part of the infrastructure, so that products and services can be delivered securely to users and customers.

The big working-from-home experiment

In the workspace, the pandemic has been the catalyst for a profound transformation in the way we all work. A Gartner study found that almost a quarter of chief financial officers (CFOs) plan to shift at least 20% of previously on-site employees to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19.

Working from home has been a positive experience for most employees, and infrastructures have been flexible to a degree to accommodate home networking. There has been huge effort behind the scenes, however. Orange, for example, added 8 Tbit/s to its network to cope with the additional load.

During the height of the pandemic, most employees used VPN connections to get onto corporate networks, which was an inexpensive, quick fix. However, we are now at an inflection point: if users are going to work from home permanently, enterprises will need to be able to offer a far better user experience – and one on which the IT team has visibility.

Moving on from VPN home access

Many of our customers are looking at SD-WAN as the flexible future of their wide area network. SD-WAN continues to be one of the fastest growing segments of the networking infrastructure market, according to IDC. This is being driven by the demands of digital business, especially as it relates to supporting SaaS apps and multi- and hybrid-cloud usage together with easier management of multiple network connections.

SD-WAN brings an application-centric focus to the wide area network using centralized management to efficiently leverage different network types, such as MPLS, broadband and wireless, in a single network. It also brings with it that all-important 360-degree, application-based network visibility.

Given these advantages, it makes sense to explore SD-WAN as a solution for individual users in home offices. The technology gives us the ability to run a home user network so that it looks like any other node on the network. Zero touch makes this deployment relatively painless. And the biggest advantage is that SD-WAN allows us to monitor the end-user experience in the home.

The concept of a zero-trust network is also gaining momentum. Proper segmentation is the foundation of a zero-trust network that can be built on a cloud or platform-based environment. Users come into the network via the Internet and log into a zero-trust environment to access their applications. Zero trust means that no one inside or outside the network is trusted, and verification is required from everyone to access these resources.

Which solution makes the most sense for a given enterprise depends on security requirements and how it fits into the cost profile of the network.

Rethinking the office workspace

Enterprises are also looking at the physical office and how they can modify the workspace to minimize the risk to employees. Again, technology has an important role to play. For example, most enterprises today have Wi-Fi. These networks combined with sensors can be used to collect valuable data to help enterprises keep employees safe and create effective social distancing.

Deployment of cameras linked with new AI techniques offers companies innovative ways to supplement their return to work plans and enhance employee safety. For example, Amazon has introduced “Distance Assistants” in its warehouses that combine a giant TV screen, sensors and an AI-enabled camera to offer employees the ability to self-monitor themselves, giving feedback in real time. When employees get too close, circles around their feed flash red on the giant TV screen.

These technologies do not provide one single answer. Neither are they one size fits all. They often require several technology partners working together to get the desired outcome. This is where the skills of Orange Business Services come in, not only in satisfying global network needs, but also in integrating IoT systems as part of ongoing flexible digital transformation strategies.

A new reality

There is huge ambiguity around what a COVID-19 recovery will look like and how long it will take. One thing is for sure, though: cloud and flexible infrastructures will play a pivotal role in the digitized future of enterprises to increase agility, productivity and effectiveness. This means moving data centers from hardware- to software-based networking and distributing network services to wherever applications are being used. Now, more than ever, is it necessary to add flexibility to your IT environment.

For more information watch our webinar, Creating flexible IT infrastructure in a time of ambiguity, which discusses this topic in full.

 

John Isch

John Isch
Director – Connectivity, AME, Orange Business Services
John is currently involved in creating sales strategies and presenting technical solutions to Fortune 500 clients throughout North America. Closely linked with the global Product Management organization, he helps to ensure product development meets customer requirements while tracking industry trends and emerging technologies.

 

Rich Smith

Rich Smith
Director – Connectivity, AME, Orange Business Services
Rich supports Internet, MPLS, Ethernet, SD-WAN and various other fixed network solutions at Orange Business Services in the Americas region. When not contemplating what’s next in the world of connectivity, Rich enjoys hiking, mountain biking and downhill skiing with his wife and three girls in the woods of New York.

Orange Business Services

A division of the Orange Group dedicated to B2B, Orange Business Services is a network-native digital services company connecting, protecting and innovating for sustainable business growth. We meet our customers’ challenges at every stage of the data journey to take advantage of new business ecosystems.