The network must change to adapt to the new normal

COVID-19 has slapped an “urgent transformation” notice on the network. The crisis has underlined the necessity for robust, resilient and secure networking infrastructures that can react quickly to fast-changing business scenarios.

Before the pandemic, CIOs were already looking to improve their network agility to address digitization and disruptive forces in the marketplace. This is underscored by IDC’s FutureScape poll last year, which spotlighted the fact that 79% of European CEOs felt under pressure to deliver on a successful digital transformation strategy.

Agility, as we know, is central to this transformation. McKinsey’s research shows that agile organizations have a 70% chance of being in the top quartile of organizational health. This is believed to be a key indicator of long-term performance.

Organizations should now re-examine the network

The pandemic has accelerated the necessity for organization-wide agility. A flexible organization is one that can react fast to unpredictable changes. In the new normal, organizations will need to manage and support highly-distributed networks. Some homeworkers have faced issues accessing and using virtual private networks (VPNs) to connect them to business resources. Temporary fixes and workarounds were implemented, but long term, infrastructures have no option but to change.

The number of applications running on the network is continuing to grow alongside telecommuting. As a result, traffic patterns are increasingly variable, seeing applications fighting for network capacity. These can all affect the user experience. A tiny delay on the network can cause video meetings to jitter or break up. Additional bandwidth and network capacity are essential to support large numbers of permanent telecommuters, who need the same performance in their home workspaces as their office environments.

Embracing the “digital-native” network

For me, it is clear: the network has to change in line with dramatically changing work processes. A recent Gartner survey revealed that 74% of CFOs plan to shift to more remote working in their organizations.

COVID-19 hasn’t triggered this, but it has undoubtedly been the catalyst. In IDC’s 2019 European Communications Survey, 99% of respondents said that network changes were in the offing as a direct result of new technologies such as multi-cloud, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and unified communication and collaboration (UC&C) tools. The world is a very different place now, and this needs to be done as a matter of urgency.

IDC describes the new network that can satisfy the need for resilience and agility as "digital native." This network’s attributes must include flexibility, manageability, scalability and cost-effectiveness. It must also provide a secure environment to keep users’ data and applications safe from escalating threats, while ensuring compliance, wherever people are working.

One approach is for the network to break out into local clouds to offer up predictable performance. We are seeing many more hybrid cloud applications in a mix of hyperscale and private clouds to achieve this. Business VPN Galerie, for example, provides customers with global secure access to the cloud via the corporate network without crossing the public Internet. This gives users consistent performance when accessing cloud applications.

End-to-end visibility is essential to provide users with the performance they require. CAD designers are going to have very different profiles working remotely than an HR executive, for example. For this very reason, Orange recently partnered with ThousandEyes, an Internet and cloud intelligence company, to provide Orange customers with the visibility they need to deliver an enhanced digital experience to users via both the Internet and multi-cloud.

SD-WAN takes its place in the new normal

The flexibility of SD-WAN also has its place in the new workspace. SD-WAN can quickly and efficiently support remote office networks. And now, its ability to make cost-effective use of connectivity resources is making it attractive in homeworking.

SD-WAN provides secure, scalable and flexible connectivity. Provisioning, set up and configuration of the SD-WAN device can be carried out remotely. From a management perspective, analytics and monitoring tools can be effectively used by IT departments to manage and forecast an organization’s networking requirements.

The security issues that organizations will face are likely to be more acute than before the pandemic, as cybercriminals look to exploit weaknesses in fluid business environments. With SD-WAN, organizations can set up their own secure zones for mission-critical traffic, directing it based on internal security policies. Other security solutions can also be leveraged alongside it, including next-generation firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, threat intelligence and cloud controls.

The changing face of the network

When it comes to conversations about digital transformation, the network is often the most under-discussed element in an organization’s IT infrastructure. It is crucial that this changes if organizations are to become more resilient and succeed in the new low-touch economy. This will be even more important when not only users but also things are connected in the hyper-connected world we are becoming.

To find out more information on why digital transformation needs network transformation, read the IDC whitepaper here.

Dave Van Meer
Dave Van Meer

Dave van Meer is Head of Solutions at Orange Business in Netherlands. He brings 20 years of extensive leadership in the Consulting and Managed Services ICT industries. As in his career, he also values relationships in his private life and is people centric. He loves to spend time with his family and friends. His lifetime hobby and sport is volleyball, on the court and on the beach.