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Ethernet at the heart of enterprise networks for 2021 and beyond

01 Feb 2021
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Nikhil Batra

Associate Research Director, Telecom, IoT and Enterprise ICT, IDC Asia/Pacific

Over the past decade, connectivity has emerged as a foundation and enabler of digital initiatives. It has become the backbone of global business as more users, devices, and things get connected to the Internet, demanding lower-latency connections to higher-bandwidth applications.

2020 was a turbulent year for many, and it would be an understatement to say that the COVID-19 crisis forced a change in mindset of IT and business leaders about "connectedness".

Organisations have had to quickly pivot to support a widely dispersed workforce, resulting in an increased reliance on cloud platforms and (video) collaboration tools which are now mission critical for business operation and survival.

This reliance further highlights the importance of connectivity and the need for a robust and reliable enterprise network architecture in today’s hyper digital era.

Network transformation key to ‘future ready’ businesses

The recently launched Vodafone Business Future Ready Report – Asia Pacific found that almost half (48%) of businesses in Asia Pacific expect that “substantial” or “radical” changes will be required to their business models in the next 12 months. Furthermore, 43% expect that making these fundamental changes to their business will be difficult to implement.

As businesses plan and decide priorities for the years ahead, forward-looking organisations are already reevaluating their network architecture and investment strategies. This is critical when it comes to supporting their digital transformation ambitions amid extended travel bans and intermittent lockdowns or social distancing.

Enterprises have adopted piecemeal approaches to addressing employees’ connectivity requirements and will need to rethink their distributed enterprise needs.

And this will grow in priority as IDC predicts that by 2022, 80% of Asia’s top 2000 companies by revenue will revisit their commercial real estate footprint post–COVID, as many plan augmented workspaces that do not yet address the connectivity needs to support a hybrid work model.

Considerations for the distributed enterprise network

From a network perspective, this raises several issues.

Think increased complexity of network design across campuses and homes requiring wired and wireless access; secure remote access challenges; monitoring, visibility and management processes; and increased use of collaboration technologies across all locations.

But this is also where network transformation, working hand in hand with an enterprise’s digital transformation, will have a positive impact on productivity.

IDC predicts that by 2023, enterprises will get a 35% boost in productivity by re-architecting networks to include a "branch of one" operating model, enabling the same secure application experience as they get on premise.

Against this backdrop, digital transformation is rewriting network requirements, an area where Ethernet plays a key role as hybrid network architectures address the needs of businesses to connect to more distributed cloud and edge platforms.

Little do we realise that most of the capabilities in important future connectivity enablers, such as 5G and Wi-Fi 6, to high-performance wired connections, are powered by a networking technology that has its roots more than 40 years ago.

According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), “Ethernet provides all the necessary networking standards to ensure that everything interoperates with each other and it, therefore ‘disappears’ from the radar of nearly everyone as a concern”.

Whether you look at a Wi-Fi access point on a ceiling near you, or a smart camera recording video activity, or a private network powering the Information Technology-Operational Technology (IT-OT) convergence on a manufacturing shop floor, Ethernet-enabled access points provide reliable and efficient connectivity.

Over the years, Ethernet has extended from Local Area Networks (LAN) to Wide Area Networks (WAN), and even to today’s edge devices, thereby becoming mission critical to an organisation’s connectivity.

The role of connectivity will only continue to grow in the future, but in order to fully harness its power, organisations will need to overcome the complexity of managing connectedness at scale, and with the security that modern digital businesses require.

Ethernet meets most of these business requirements and adds to this the attractive price point stemming from the benefits of scale associated with any widely adopted technology.

It is, therefore, no surprise that over 86% of organisations in IDC’s 2020 Asia Pacific Communications and Networking Survey said they planned to increase their Ethernet spending.

Enterprises looking to thrive in the digital economy will need a digital-native network that is easy to manage and scale and delivers the flexibility, cost effectiveness and security that ensure the right end-user experience. The time is now to prepare the network for the next wave of innovation.

For more on the role of Ethernet in WAN transformation and the importance of finding trusted network partners, download the IDC Executive Brief, Sponsored by Ciena and Vodafone, A Digital-Native Network: Accelerating the Transformation of Asia Pacific Enterprises, July 2020.

Discover more about the different Ethernet solutions for your business.

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