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This is the shape of the next decade’s network

By LYNTON LUBBE, CS & NGS business practice lead at Westcon-Comstor Sub-Saharan Africa

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There is no disputing the fact that internet traffic has increased significantly over the past 14 months. And with companies having to accelerate their digital transformation efforts to cater for an increasingly distributed workforce, traditional approaches to networking require an overhaul. Virtualisation and software-driven technologies will now become the foundation on which to build the infrastructure of the future.

Research shows that approximately 80% of companies are planning to move away from their traditional data centres. In comparison, 87% have already adopted or are planning to adopt internet-based connectivity as their main WAN technology. The coming decade will see digital experiences created with advanced technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, 5G, quantum computing, predictive cybersecurity, the list goes on.

Existing internet and network infrastructure will be unable to support the complexity these sophisticated applications will demand of the network. Not only will this result in the physical infrastructure evolving to combine silicon architecture with a next-generation of optics. But the software environment will fuel the adoption of increasingly customisable applications that benefit from real-time data analytics at the edge of computing to inform business decision-making faster than ever.

Combining silicon, optics, and software as the new technology levers for a digitally-driven business landscape will be critical for future growth.

New work, new communication

From a practical work perspective, this requires employees to have access to solutions that integrate chat, voice, video, and meetings with business workflows and external applications. This workstream collaboration will ensure companies can remain effective regardless of the geographic location of their employees. As part of the change management required in this regard, traditional PBX environments will also give way to hybrid, cloud-driven solutions that are better geared for a distributed environment.

This results in the adoption of a communications platform as a service solution that provides developers with a platform that features a comprehensive set of communications functions. In turn, these can be incorporated into any type of application.

Beyond work

But networking technology is not only essential for working and communications, but it is also the cornerstone of teaching, collaboration, research, and even delivering quality healthcare solutions. In all these instances, the connectivity infrastructure just needs to work. End users do not care about the technical elements required to make networking effective. Instead, they just want access to the information they need using their device of choice at any time of day.

A robust and adaptable network platform that caters to the scalability of on-demand usage is another piece of the puzzle that must be built to remain operationally effective.

Troubleshooting network problems, hardware failures, coping with configuration changes, and addressing security and compliance requirements are all aspects of the network that businesses need to overcome in more effective ways. By injecting software-defined networking with artificial intelligence and machine learning can help introduce more pro-activeness to addressing network problems before they occur. The additional benefit of this is that IT teams can focus on other issues while automation takes care of much of the management aspects of the ‘new’ networking environment.

All told, the network has irrevocably changed. Companies need to adapt to these changes if they are going to truly unlock the potential of their digital transformation initiatives.

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