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The Networking “X” Factor

Highlights and compelling takeaways from the second episode of Behind the Network, a virtual event about the workplace of the future.

I enjoyed cohosting the second “Behind the Network” webisode on September 9th with Ryan Ansley, who leads information technology at Cisco Meraki. What I loved most about the latest installment was the focus on solving real-world customer challenges, as seen through the eyes of three Meraki customers and my cohost. Here’s a recap of our conversation, along with a few of my additional thoughts. Without further ado—let’s jump right in!

Customer perspectives matter

Ryan’s story is interesting. He used Meraki solutions throughout his career and came to appreciate its cloud-native, simple deployment and ease-of-management capabilities. It made a lasting impression and drove his desire to join the Meraki team. Today, he uses Meraki platforms to manage over 5,000 employees’ connectivity needs, and can do so with a relatively small team.

Australia Post, Regions Bank, and Tandem Health shared similar anecdotes on the webcast as we discussed how each company adapted to the pandemic, managed remote work, implemented security, and re-architected future digital transformation plans. High on many of these organization’s consideration lists was the deployment of SD-WAN. No surprise to me, given the highly distributed nature of work during the pandemic.

Another common theme was a renewed commitment to investing in networking infrastructure that helps digitize business processes. From my perspective, one epiphany brought on by the pandemic is the need for networking scalability and agility. Many mid-sized companies were ill-prepared with business continuity and secure solutions to facilitate remote work.

Three trends to watch for

What is next for networking in a post-pandemic world? I expect to see three trends:

Adoption of SD-WAN: Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) may be a newly minted term, but the concept is not. I believe there will be continued rapid adoption of SD-WAN that weaves the agility of cloud and SaaS with integrated security. Integration of each element is critical in my mind, in that it reduces both the complexity and the operational expense of managing disparate tools.

Private cellular networking: I also believe that there will be increased consideration in private cellular networking given that licensed spectrum is opening up to enterprises through emerging models, such as CBRS/OnGo, in the U.S. Cellular connectivity can serve not only as redundancy to wired and wireless enterprise networking, but also to those deployments that have unique challenges with propagation and machine-to-machine communication.

Network automation: Finally, I expect enterprises to embrace higher levels of network automation to deliver greater degrees of uptime and application availability. A bonus lies in providing network operators with improved agility and time to engage in more value-added support for business lines.   

Final thoughts

I love the concept of the “X” factor. It defines a variable in a given situation that could significantly impact an outcome. In many ways, the pandemic could serve as a significant catalyst for the future of networking, given some of my previous insights into what I believe is next. Indeed, enterprises and service providers should be better prepared to support employees’ and subscribers’ future connectivity needs.


Will Townsend is Senior Analyst responsible for networking infrastructure and carrier services at Moor Insights & Strategy. He has been featured on NPR, CNBC, in the Wall Street Journal, and frequently contributes to, providing insights into enterprise networking and 5G. Mr. Townsend is also ranked consistently as one of the world’s top networking analysts, as measured by ARInsights. 

Moor Insights & Strategy provides industry research and analysis to the high-tech industry. This blog was commissioned by Cisco Meraki. Moor Insights & Strategy disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of such information, and shall have no liability for errors, omissions, or inadequacies in such information. This document consists of the opinions of Moor Insights & Strategy and should not be construed as statements of fact. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.