I enjoyed hosting the third “Behind The Network” webisode on April 28, along with representatives from two small-to-midsize businesses. From my perspective, the pandemic has weighed heavily on this particular sector. As we begin returning to the office and school campuses, there will be many considerations. If you missed it, you can watch the recording.
Here’s my recap of what was discussed and my insights into some of the compelling subjects addressed.
Hybrid work is here to stay
Over the next 6 to 12 months, I think returning to work and campus will be decidedly hybrid. The process will likely be slow and measured, with a high degree of location-based service deployment to ensure measures such as COVID-19 contact tracing, proximity, and density monitoring are maintained.
For remote workers, organizations will evaluate connectivity platforms to ensure proper scale and security, and solutions that integrate security into the overall networking stack like SD-WAN and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) should experience rapid adoption. Furthermore, I believe that enterprises will adopt a greater degree of automation to ensure both higher levels of network uptime and a more consistent application experience regardless of location. Network assurance and analytics platforms, including AIOps, should also see broad adoption to monitor performance and provide actionable insights.
Finally, I believe that network operators will also benefit from a cloud-first approach in the form of better scalability, economics, and flexibility to support the new hybrid work model. Most often, I hear customers voice a desire to make networking simple and easy to deploy and manage. Thus, networking as a service (NaaS) should also be a huge consideration long term.
During the panel, I invited Aaron Sturniolo from RRMM Architects and James FitzPatrick from Avenues: The World School to share their experiences during the pandemic and discuss how they pivoted to maintain continuity. We had an interactive question and answer session following the conversation, and a handful of common threads from the panel stood out to me.
First, the pandemic forced both organizations to fundamentally rethink their approach to supporting critical stakeholder needs. Whether you are an architect or a student, it is mission-critical for IT staff to extend a consistent experience from work/campus to remote locations in order to maintain productivity. Second, both fundamentally changed their IT operating models by employing some of the previously mentioned tools to achieve the necessary scale and business resiliency. Finally, one of the silver linings resulting from the pandemic was an acceleration of each organization’s digital journey that will prepare them for unexpected challenges in the future.
The future of work will be hybrid, and IT professionals will require connectivity platforms that scale, are secure, and deliver a consistent application experience regardless of location through automation, assurance, actionable insights, and cloudification. RRMM Architects and Avenues: The World School are two great examples of organizations that leaned into modern tools to not only survive the pandemic but thrive. It has been an interesting journey for all of us, and I believe businesses will be stronger as a result.
Will Townsend is Senior Analyst responsible for networking infrastructure and carrier services at Moor Insights & Strategy. He has been featured on NPR, CNBC, and in the Wall Street Journal, and frequently contributes to Forbes.com, providing insights into enterprise networking and 5G. Townsend is also ranked consistently as one of the world’s top networking analysts, as measured by ARInsights.