Over 95% of business executives believe that the pandemic accelerated their digital transformation. Analysts suggest that COVID-19 accelerated the worldwide digital transformation by five to six years, making it an acute disruption in how the world does business. Daniel Lawson of Verizon agrees, indicating that networks are at the center of this shift.
In this keynote address, Daniel discusses the implications of the acute disruption with Jon Weg, a global CIO. Businesses have undergone a permanent change that requires the underlying networks to adjust how they deliver:
Addressing these needs means looking at the long-term viability of the network in addressing these needs.
Reliability has always been a network requirement, but reliability takes on a new dimension when a digital strategy becomes a business strategy. Delivering reliability is further complicated when an enterprise is a hybrid of on-premise and cloud infrastructures. Adding IoT devices increases the need for consistent connectivity because those end-points may be anywhere. Disruption in service means lower productivity.
As Jon indicated, connectivity is crucial to business success. Over the past year, retailers have learned that some part of the customer journey will remain digital, even after it is no longer essential. Consumers have learned to do more online — shopping, buying groceries, and scheduling appointments. That behavior isn’t likely to change, so it is vital that network connectivity be reliable.
Reliability also means speed. People are accustom to doing things at internet speed, meaning after five seconds, a page needs to load. If an employee can’t access an application or file in seconds, frustration kicks in. Network providers have to enable organizations to maintain connectivity at a speed that meets customer and employee expectations.
Networks must support a more flexible ecosystem where connectivity includes partners and vendors throughout the supply chain. The disruptions in the supply chain during 2020 underscored companies’ need to be more connected to their suppliers. As a whole, the chain needs to work together to address obstacles. For that to happen, networks must be capable of reconfiguring at a moment’s notice.
Networks must have the resources to adjust their configurations to meet the corporate requirements. When demand increases, added bandwidth needs to be available. Creating a flexible network means having control over components to manage loads and monitor activity. If adjustments cannot be made to address changes in demand, companies will be unable to deliver the products and services their customers need. Most importantly, network providers must build in flexibility to address the unknown.
Cybercrime has not declined. For example, brute force attacks have increased by 40%. What is even more concerning is the number of attacks using new techniques or technology. On average, new techniques increase by around 20% per year. In 2020, that number almost doubled. That means better network security.
Traditional security approaches were perimeter-based. Perimeters were easy to defend because the network behind the firewall was well-defined. In today’s environment, perimeters are not clearly defined. Employees work from home, and more IoT devices are being deployed. Suddenly the network crosses time zones and countries, making it more challenging to secure a network.
If companies use a hybrid infrastructure, security becomes more complicated. Now, there are two environments to protect. Maintaining security in the public cloud has to be a priority. Networks need strategies to assist businesses in deploying secure configurations. Managers have to adjust routes and add resources to the network without long delays while maintaining a high level of security. Implementations need end-to-end security.
Jon indicated that companies want network visibility. They need to know what is going on within the network. Companies need information on:
These are just three areas that require monitoring. Without comprehensive visibility, it’s impossible for businesses to ensure network security or reliability. Until visibility tools are available, many organizations will keep on-premise functionality to ensure compliance and security.
For example, retailers have to protect the financial information that consumers use to purchase items online or in a store. Failure to comply comes with significant penalties. No organization is going to trust a network that cannot give the visibility they need to ensure all data is protected.
Increased demand for digital solutions requires more tools to effectively manage network resources. Large networks need IT personnel to monitor, maintain and secure resources. Unfortunately, the skills gap continues to grow.
In the U.S., computer and information technology jobs are expected to grow 11% over the next ten years, which is faster than the average of all occupations. This market sector is projected to add over half a million new jobs during the same period. The greatest growth will be in cloud computing, big data, and security.
Network engineers, while sharing some skills with cloud engineers, lack experience and training with cloud technologies. The lack of IT staff makes it difficult for organizations to manage their cloud components. To counter the labor shortages, more aspects of network management are being automated. Tools are available that monitor activity and notify staff when it deviates from pre-set controls. Knowing that critical metrics are being assessed eases the stress on IT without lowering the quality of network management.
What is acute disruption? The best way to describe it is in medical terms. In an emergency (acute trauma), actions are taken in the short-term to increase a patient’s chance of survival; however, these measures are not considered effective for long-term care. Businesses have witnessed an acute disruption in operations and have taken steps to ensure survival. Not all of those steps are sustainable. That’s why it’s crucial for organizations to look at their long-term needs to determine how to make the short-term solutions more viable.