Navigating new normal as work from home impacts networks.
The shift in network demand and pressure between office and remote working has been monumental. The global pandemic has shown workers and employers the shift to working from home can be a reality, after many years of lip service.
However as remote working increasingly involves file sharing, video conferencing and other team collaboration tools, large amounts of bandwidth are being churned through and impacting the speed and efficiency of broadband networks. This is not sustainable for CIOs navigating this new normal, with many business structures relying on the ability to share information quickly to maintain productivity and competitiveness.
While in the long term there would still need to be investments to grow the capacity and speed of networks, CIOs also need to consider the impacts on network performance introduced by latency in remote access networks as well as the migration to cloud hosted applications.
In an interview with CIO Tech Asia, Frank Ong regional VP of Riverbed A/NZ said, in general lag time service disruptions and unreliable connections have been experienced by most networks across the Asia Pacific (APAC) region. Many service providers are feeling the pressure as the demand placed on their networks are increasing to a level they are not equipped to handle.
According to Ong a new report from Ovum aimed at addressing this over-subscription issue revealed that a number of service providers in the APAC region are building out the distributed cloud architectures that can support the massive capacity and performance needs. Whilst this is great to see, it is still very much in development.
“CIOs need to be thinking about how they can begin addressing their networking issues right now,” said Ong. “5G could certainly be one component to remediate the situation. Its promise is clear — higher bandwidth for massive data transfers with extremely low latency, higher app performance, enhancements in device to device communication and the data centre, plus reduced power requirements.”
Ong cautions, while in theory this will be a great support for the network, it’s not a silver bullet.
“5G would only be one part of the network and it would need to operate alongside other components – some of which will be ageing,” he said. “To manage this, CIOs will need to have clear visibility of where and how traffic patterns are changing across these disparate networks. The patterns they encountered in the past no longer exist and new patterns are continually forming and changing.”
According to Ong this is where Network Performance Management (NPM) solutions can come in to provide that visibility and analysis of how data packets and flows are moving through the network. These solutions can alert IT know of any changes and emerging choke points.
“Once CIOs have provided the network access and security, they then need to consider how they can optimise speed and efficiency in order to maintain and enhance productivity as well as client experience,” he said. “They will need to introduce solutions that will boost the productivity of workplace and WFH devices so that employees – and more importantly the clients they serve – don’t perceive a difference in speed based on where they chose to work from.”
Ong said CIOs need to have an increased focus on the performance of applications, whether they be on premise or in the cloud as most of our day to day work activity is done on these platforms.
“Towards that end, CIOs need to not only consider WAN Optimisation but also Client and SaaS accelerators for their WFH employees,” he said. There are really two elements to consider here, connectivity and agility.”
“For many IT teams, the move to remote work had to happen instantaneously. What would have probably taken months of planning had to be done overnight and quick-fixes were likely implemented with little consideration of how connectivity effects the equation and user experience. Now, CIOs have to consider that the new normal, characterised by online schooling and video conferencing, inevitably involves increased usage and load on the home network. These fluctuations may cause extraordinary pressure on their networks. As a result, robust connectivity needs to be a critical consideration with every project.
Once connectivity is achieved, then the second factor, agility, comes into play. Many companies had activated their BCP in moving employees to WFH set ups.”
Ong said that is now the new norm, that’s why there needs to be a “new BCP” in case this new work paradigm is disrupted.
Depending on the industry they are in and the nature of the work being done, the new BCP will pose some serious challenges to CIOs building networks that are agile enough to support it.
“This is where SD WAN solutions can come into play – to provide that connectivity in these hybrid environments,” he said. “The key here is being able to quickly establish connectivity in a combination of DR locations and working from home set ups.”
From the perspective of a user who is connecting from home or from a DR location, their applications are now sitting in a combination of different environments. SD WAN provides the connectivity fabric between these multiple user locations.
“The sometimes-overlooked aspect of IT, network infrastructure and management, is proving in this new environment to be a worthy long-term investment,” said Ong. “Without an optimised, agile IT network, the rest of your IT will suffer, particularly in a time where we’re so digitally connected.”