As a result of the world’s newly changed economic state, wholly unexpected demands are being put on networks from businesses, employees and everyone looking to fill the afternoon. Looking at a mass of WAN usage statistics shared by hundreds of organisations around the world, here are five predictions on how businesses will alter the way they work based on changes in enterprise traffic.
Cloud adoption will increase
Public cloud adoption was already growing globally. While the previous motivation was cost, convenience and simplicity, the new focus for cloud adoption will be driven by the ease of change management. This in turn, will further put the spotlight on data privacy, security and local regulatory and compliance requirements. A global survey of 1000+ enterprises revealed adoption of SaaS applications increased from 23% in 2019 to over 51% in 2020, with the average number of SaaS applications also increasing.
Hybrid workplaces will increase, while networks need to be optimized for video conferencing
The current environment has demonstrated that tech workers and enterprises need to have the flexibility to work from anywhere and have to be equally productive. Collaboration is key. Video conferencing applications will become the norm. In this environment, the wide area network (WAN) will assume strategic importance and, as such, it has to be optimised for servicing needs of voice, video and other such applications to enable hybrid workplaces. Collaboration applications over the WAN are at the top of the heap of SaaS applications and expected to grow rapidly in a post Covid-19 world. Over 38% of people surveyed in the aforementioned report indicated complexity as the primary barrier to WAN performance. This will need to be addressed.
Industries will need to evolve and automation will increase
It is clear that some industries are going to be more severely impacted than others. In many cases, foot traffic drives network traffic. Retail, hotel, transportation, sports – all these industries have taken a hit on foot traffic and that has impacted network traffic as well. On the other hand, ecommerce traffic has spiked, and last mile delivery has increased. All these factors will drive the greater adoption of automation, particularly in manufacturing and farming industries, for example. Robotics, 3D printing and AI-based technologies will form the core of the next generation of industries reducing some form of human dependency.
Enterprise sites may become a unit of one
What this means is that we may see more workers tele-working whilst expecting all the normal facilities. This may lead to reduction of campus sites, as companies evaluate workers that need to be present on site, versus the “floating” worker population. Some shrinkage of commercial real estate will therefore be inevitable, at least as part of the current cyclical change, though population growth and density of workers within a certain geography are likely to offset any such shrinkage. Tech and software companies are more likely to benefit from this trend, while other traditional companies will need to make accommodations to their physical real estate that include desk arrangements, cafeteria, rest room facilities, conference rooms and such. Legal teams will also need to evaluate risk of physical engagement including for part-time visitors. This will impact how work is conducted at least for the foreseeable future. It is conceivable that businesses may permanently designate some workers in their organisation as remote workers, even if they live in the same vicinity as the office, but have reduced need to come in. Physical security and workplace protection will need to be re-emphasised.
In what is very much a sign of the times, Germany is considering making remote working a right, while many tech giants are toying with the idea of a more permanent transition to remote working.
Managed network services will accelerate further
The reduction in onsite staff, and the focus on managing change quickly, will likely result in further acceleration of managed services. The concept of network-as-a-service is already prevalent. Managed WANs and SD-WANs will be the preferred option, as providers will own delivery responsibility and can provide the same or superior service levels as an enterprise implementing a do-it-yourself (DIY) network. This will be an attractive proposition for even larger companies that employ an army of personnel to maintain their networks and IT, with the pendulum swinging a bit further towards managed services. In the context of software-defined WANs (SD-WANs), this trend is clearly visible, with the discussed survey finding the preference for a managed SD-WAN has grown from 59% to over 87% between 2019 and 2020.
Nothing is forever and the current situation is no different. What will last longer is that businesses will realise a good disaster recovery strategy should include planning for unforeseen eventualities without having to compromise on productivity, data security or the peer-to-peer collaboration tools which are key to maintaining ‘business as usual’. The modern network will have to be architected to enable any eventuality.
Shashi Kiran is Chief Marketing and Product Officer at Aryaka Networks