Profound Change and Opportunity: How to Prepare Your Networks for the Next 10 Years

Dec 16, 2021

Over the next 2-3 years how we build the new network for these challenges will determine our success for the next decade.

By Greg Dorai, VP Product Management for Secure Access Business

It’s becoming a multi-cloud world where the future of work will be hybrid, apps are distributed, security is borderless, and operations are automated. Over the next 2-3 years how we build the new network for these challenges will determine our success for the next decade.

Why? Converging networks, wireless and internet services expected everywhere, and 8K, AR, VR applications becoming pervasive and managed over the same IT network that will include Wi-Fi 6E and Private 5G, as well as IoT devices and sensors. All these distributed applications, devices and services will burden networks and provide an overwhelming number of potential failure points if we don’t rethink our approach.

Reimagining Your Perspective

Efficient network performance and resiliency is no longer enough. We need to focus on providing the agility to help businesses plan for and deal with the unknown changes that are coming.

We must evolve the network’s role from simply making connections, to providing superior experiences and business outcomes.

It won’t be easy.  We’ll have fewer resources and less direct control over the data generated by the network, people, applications and devices.

How will we:

  • Solve for a multi-cloud world
  • Support working wirelessly from anywhere
  • Ensure seamless handoffs between branches, homes, coffee shops, and campuses
  • Connect new locations like Smart buildings, factories, cars and cities
  • Maintain Zero Trust and bridge across these locations with end-to-end visibility, policy, and security
  • Use AI to automate how we monitor the network, optimize functionality, anticipate and remediate problems?

To support people’s expectations and business outcomes in this hybrid world, we’ll need a new perspective for how we think about connectivity, mobility, security, IoT and smart buildings.

Reimagining Connectivity

Instead of focusing on applications and workflows, we must reimagine how an outcome like collaboration will drive connections. Video will be the communication of choice. IT will provide access and rich video services to people whenever and however they choose to work, while ensuring the network remains invisible to enhance experiences.

An increasing number of IoT devices and sensors on the same IT network will make workspaces safer, more intelligent, and sustainable but could also present issues for management, security, throughput, and troubleshooting. In fact, simply managing data traffic is no longer enough. Tomorrow’s networks must be software-defined, providing location-based services for as-yet unimagined applications and use cases.

Wireless access points must become multilingual to provide full wireless spectrum connectivity. Wi-Fi 6E (and Private 5G) will be everywhere. Devices and apps will automatically schedule access to the network as needed, reducing delays and increasing bandwidth utilization. The new 20-lane Wi-Fi superhighway will make 2 Gig uplink/downlink the norm. Common management of and seamless handoffs between radio technologies will eliminate lags, interference, and service interruptions as users and devices roam.

Reimagining Mobility

Full spectrum wireless access and multiple data paths could degrade user experience. Reimagining mobility engineering the network to automatically profile which path provides the best experience based on the activities the network is currently supporting. Video collaboration consumes more bandwidth than IoT devices monitoring a smart building’s operation. IT will be responsible for setting up end-to-end policies that consider the requirements of individual devices and applications with the available capacity of the network. All of this will only be possible with close coordination between device and networking providers, enterprise IT, and service providers.

Reimagining Security

Security in a hybrid workspace will become borderless. With a mobile workforce and newly integrated IoT devices, enterprise attack surfaces increase exponentially. Security must evolve into an easy-to-manage, end-to-end platform that combines Zero Trust access, authentication and customized privacy protection. Policies once infrequently enforced by network location must be continuously updated to move with people and devices. AI analytics and machine learning will help AIOps automatically profile, categorize, segment, and track profiles, trust scores, and SLAs for each device, application and service through continuous monitoring and by identifying and remediating issues before they become apparent. As network boundaries disappear, concerns about privacy will increase, and it’ll be necessary to balance security protocols and user privacy.

Reimagining Smart Buildings and the Internet of Things

IoT and Smart Buildings will become essential technologies in making the hybrid workspace better for people and better for the planet. People will want to know they can return to work safely and will have a new and better work experience when they come in.  Companies will require smarter buildings that reduce energy consumption and adjust environments to keep people safe. IT will need a single, secure network they can control remotely that provides end-to-end visibility and management of all devices and environments. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will enable smart buildings to learn how to manage themselves. A reimagined office building will automatically detect and track people and device density, schedule cleaning services and enable contact tracing as needed, and inform users of available meeting rooms, offices resources and services.

Some Final Thoughts

In sum, across connectivity, mobility, security, smart buildings and IoT devices, the greater the automation the more control and agility IT will have in their response which translates into better user experiences and significant operational savings. To capture this value, though, requires a modern network infrastructure for the next decade that is software-defined and flexible. It also requires working with an ecosystem of partners to figure out ways to use the new data that will be collected.