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Power through tough times with software-defined networks

11 Dec 2020
Nikhil profile image

Nikhil Batra

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

Businesses across Asia Pacific, China in particular, are gradually opening their workplaces and factories. Where curbs have been lifted, airlines are taking flight for domestic travel, including some limited international travel among countries with control of the health crisis.

Under government direction, businesses have responded to the challenges of COVID-19 with speed and responsibility, striking a balance between maintaining operations and employee safety. But as markets nervously leave lockdown conditions, business leaders are looking beyond mere cost containment toward business resilience and somewhere in the future — the next normal.

Organisations with a focus on digital transformation (DX) and committed resources, or high DX maturity, have demonstrated more resiliency during the crisis.

I caught up with Anup Changaroth, Ciena's CTO for Asia Pacific & Japan, and Nadya Melic, VP, Head of Customer solutions at Vodafone Business Asia Pacific, to discuss the current situation and how technology can help Asia Pacific businesses flatten the recessionary curve.

Nikhil: IDC's research indicates that most companies see business resilience as a top business priority right now. What are some of your customers’ challenges, and how are you helping them navigate the crisis to emerge resilient?

Nadya: As consumers’ lifestyles and employees’ working cultures have shifted to a new normal, increase in data and connectivity demands have put stress on businesses’ networks. In fact, with COVID-19, we have seen data traffic increase by 50% in most markets.

To ensure sufficient bandwidth and support for our customers, we brought forward planned upgrades to add 4 terabits per second of additional capacity to our networks in March and April.

Our customers, across various industries and sectors, continue to embrace remote working and are re-evaluating their back-to-work strategies to complement the reimaging of the future of work. For example, banks today require an even more secure and higher capacity network to meet privacy and regulatory compliance as employees embark on remote working or high frequency trading.

We are working with them to support these initiatives and in our own company, Vodafone employees now host 40,000 virtual video meetings over 6 million minutes per day on the network whilst enabling services from home.

Anup: The pandemic-driven lockdowns in various countries drove end-user corporate traffic to be far more distributed than we’ve ever seen before. Collaborative applications such as video conferencing, as well as almost ubiquitous reliance on cloud services, have also caused an increase in demand for bandwidth. It’s worth pointing out that by and large, service provider networks have been able to carry the load without too much difficulty.

However, the performance of corporate WANs has moved firmly to the foreground of critical enterprise infrastructure necessary for business resilience and will likely stay there for the foreseeable future.

Together, with our partners like Vodafone, we are enabling the delivery of secure, scalable connectivity services to customers in the region, enabling business continuity and helping weather this storm. Our technology drives all types of applications, from relatively generic, corporate ones such as data centre interconnect or cloud access, to industry specific use cases such as ultra-low latency networks for financial trading or dedicated, jitter-free links for telesurgery.

Nikhil: The examples you mention cloud, video, remote working and collaboration have a great impact on enterprise networks, but not every business has these capabilities.

In fact, IDC's Next-generation Networking and Communications survey showed that only 34% of Asia Pacific respondents believe their enterprise networks are well prepared to take full advantage of their broader technology investments.

What are your views of the critical role that underlying enterprise networks play in ensuring the road to recovery for customers?

Anup: It may well sound like a cliché now, but networks supporting business applications such as video conferencing or online collaboration tools have truly never been as critical to enterprises’ survival as they are today. As we slowly charter our way out of this crisis, this will undoubtedly continue being the case.

Continued enterprise digital transformation arguably even more so during pandemic times will drive the need for higher-performance and higher-capacity connectivity services across geographies not easily supported by traditional WAN/VPN infrastructure.

All these dynamics make high-capacity services essential to business survival. They are, and will remain, instrumental in keeping the business life going.

Nadya: As more content moves to the cloud and becomes further virtualised, dedicated Ethernet services can provide the uncontended bandwidth requirements for a secure, reliable and consistent experience.

In today’s world we need safe, resilient and capable communications infrastructure and networks to keep us connected, enhance our way of life, continue with business requirements, and continue to make a difference in society.

IDC’s vision of the “future enterprise” is an organization that is completely digitally transformed. Such an organization underpins business processes with technology, is fueled by innovation, and is platform-enabled and ecosystem-centric. In the eyes of CTOs/CIOs, the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of a hybrid, software-defined networking approach to enterprise connectivity across all industries. And IDC sees an opportunity for businesses to "flatten the curve"

to minimize the impact of the current crisis and emerge on the other side of the curve resilient, more digitally fit, and ready to capture their share of the new opportunities as part of the "next normal."

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