WAN after COVID: four key questions

Covid-19 caused a once in a generation behaviour shift, with home working moved from an exception to a necessity. In the main, networks held up well, but some important questions remained:

Adjusting to the shifting network edge.

As more users move to remote working, there are more points for the network to fail or lag, more points for network managers to guarantee performance. Suddenly, the key point of failure in the system could be an employee’s modem. How can network managers handle speed expectations and adjust to the new network edge?

“While the size of an employee’s broadband connection is certainly important, there can be other factors at the hyper-local level.  If your kids are now out of school, there are a whole new bunch of devices connecting to your modem – there may be connectivity issues as Wi-Fi routers are just not capable of handling the extra connections. Plus, the journey traffic takes to the ‘central office’ – these places could get slammed with a lot of traffic they’re not used to handling in the daytime’

Greg Bryan, Senior Manager Enterprise Research, TeleGeography

Application-based networking – performance and security

As cloud-based applications become the norm in offices around the world, how can network managers keep tabs on security? And how can they keep the balance between user experience and rigorous security? Is zero-trust the way forward? And on a performance note, latency tolerance for applications, particularly video software, is reducing massively – any lagging could potentially affect the majority of a worker’s toolkit to do their job. How can network managers make sure the various aspects of the WAN are up to the challenge?

‘The conversations we hear today are not network-centric, they are very much cloud-centric, application-centric and security-centric. Everything that comes with opening up and being more liberal from an aspect standpoint is up for discussion when it comes to security. Security is a moving target for enterprises right now.” – Lloyd Noronha, Head of SD-WAN Marketing, Cisco

Accelerating digital transformation in companies

There’s nothing like a crisis to sharpen the mind. Where boardrooms may once have been dragging their feet and demanding features be stripped out to save costs, now the pressure is on to ensure WANs can soak up this new demand. Are enterprises ready for it? And how can their vendor partners help them pivot?

“SD-WAN is not just a change in network delivery, it’s a change in how a business has to operate. It changes the entire mindset of how you buy products.”

Michael Martin, Senior Enterprise Network Architect, McKinsey

The death of MPLS?

If working from home becomes the norm for many office-based jobs, then why would companies keep paying for expensive, centrally-located offices? And the follow-up – if working from home becomes the default connectivity option, why would companies keep paying for MPLS? Could the hybrid pendulum swing towards SD-WAN at a faster rate than imagined?

“MPLS has been the dominant WAN technology for the past 20 years. Now you are presented as an enterprise – how do I keep my WAN current in order to deal with the new requests? How can we deal with a workforce that no longer just sits at offices?

Today, the primary topic that most network managers are dealing with is stabilising the existing setup. However, that triggers the question – what should my future development be to ensure business continuity while ensuring the required network quality? In the medium to long term, network managers are going to look at their existing infrastructure and think about how they can change it to a set-up that can adapt to situations like this in a more agile way.” - Sander Barens, COO, Expereo