Networking trends in a post COVID-19 world
With the pandemic sharply in its sights, market intelligence firm IDC recently released its 2020 State of the Network Survey. In the report, 5G, edge computing and SD-WAN were the technologies cited as crucial drivers for survival in the imminent recessionary global climate.
Even before the global crisis, next-generation networks were already moving towards software-defined networking, and the SD-WAN market was already expected to grow to US$4.5bn by 2020.
According to IDC, 44 percent of organisations were already piloting or using SD-WAN, and another 28% had it on their radar.
With the sudden rush to reshape network resources to cater to remote work, many businesses are probably wishing they had virtualised their network earlier.
Meanwhile, market research specialist Forrester has taken stock of the first dramatic months of 2020 to describe the post-COVID-19 mantra that will help businesses regain lost ground and perhaps emerge stronger: “Think Adaptive”.
With this approach, businesses will be not just agile but completely grounded on a supreme adaptability to change. They will grow three times faster than their competitors, thrive on deep insights and be prepared for shocks and curveballs, come what may.
THE COMMON TECH DENOMINATOR
From the predictive insights above on virtualisation and agile adaptability to change, what can we derive as a common denominator?
The answer is: Network Connectivity.
The backbone of any agile business has to be connectivity among its own people, and with the people at large aka the customers.
For decades past, this was achieved with physically-bulky networking equipment, cabling and cumbersome computers and servers. When cloud computing arrived, it still took more than 10 years for organisations to take tentative steps towards the technology, beginning in early 2000.
Fast forward another 10 years, not only has the cloud gone into the mainstream—it has become the main resource for a new generation of businesses also known as born in the cloud.
With younger challenges in the market, incumbents saw the urgency to drive the push towards digital transformation from 2010 until today.
In fact, the predominant networking trend in the tail end of the previous decade was to consider a blend of cloud platforms and services with some amount of private on-premise networking, “just to be on the safe side”.
Telcos and network service providers today continue to offer point-to-point connectivity while adding more cloud interconnects to fuel the demand.
In some instances, service providers are offering platform-driven ordering and provisioning of network services, Infiny as an example.
NETWORKING MANDATES AFTER THE PANDEMIC
Before the pandemic, the networking trend was to tool up for the digitalised economy cautiously. The mindset was usually:
- “Don’t put your eggs in one basket: go multicloud! Go hybrid! Push towards Industry 4.0!”
- “Cybercriminal threats are outpacing legacy networks and traditional app development—let’s dip our toes into the Telco 3.0 waters with simple and secure software-defined networking and lateral benefits of programmable, automated networking.”
- “Monetising the network is getting expensive, time to invest in interconnections and partnerships to tap into more services!”
- “We need a dedicated, scalable, private connection to the cloud and to internet exchange peering. We need all this to boost our content, services and applications.”
These were manifested into action at various levels of commitment.
Some organisations started out timidly, and when they saw encouraging results, they went deeper into the matrix. Others kept the mindsets as just “nice to have” initiatives.
When the coronavirus outbreak turned into a global pandemic, the massive surge to implement remote-working, boost staff connectivity and tighten security led to many unprepared businesses flailing. Soon, lockdowns and complete stoppage on many business activities were turning flailing to failings.
Guess which group of businesses managed to use their existing network to quickly scale up their IT resources and keep their heads above water?
Which group of businesses is frantically rushing to adopt software-defined interconnection?
The pandemic’s trail of business destruction has turned what were optional technology trends in networking strategies into mandates. Even organisations that manage to survive this early part of global business massacre will not be able to rest on their laurels.
Moving into a post COVID-19 world, we will continue to see the network trending towards the cloud as more businesses finally realise the benefit of direct cloud interconnection.
Businesses that deliver their services over the internet will see more reasons to peer remotely at internet exchanges while global interconnection bandwidth will increase thanks to widespread digitalisation.
With the fallout expect to last up to a year or two into the new decade, businesses that have already fully digitalised need to be on their toes to push for higher resilience, productivity and agility.