Four months into the great work-at-home “experiment," we have already seen significant traffic shifts in the network. For example, the critical requirement for high speed, reliable bandwidth at home is driving enhanced broadband services and 4G LTE. Core Internet traffic is up 25% or more during 2020. Correspondingly, traffic on the campus network is—not surprisingly—at an all-time low.
Organizations, including many that were laggards, have accelerated the use of public cloud for both SaaS and IaaS based applications. A number of industries disrupted by the current environment are (or will need to) dramatically enhance their IT infrastructure to provide better customer service, support a remote workforce and improve efficiency.
Network agility is critical for most digital transformation efforts—for example, quickly provisioning network services, enabling quality of user experience (such as video), providing security against attacks and connecting a multitude of IoT devices. Here's a look at three examples, across health care, education and restaurants.
Digital transformation: Three examples
Many industries are likely to see significant change as a result of the pandemic. Already digital transformation initiatives have climbed to the top of investment priorities in manufacturing, financial services, insurance, retail and hospitality. Those organizations that rapidly adapt to changing business conditions—some conditions have changed radically—will be best positioned to succeed over time.
IT transformation in many (most?) cases will demand new network architectures. For example, the home office requires traffic prioritization and advanced security capabilities, ASAP.
There's also a need for accelerated automation of physical processes via robotics and IoT devices, which require secure, low latency connectivity for both mobile and fixed services. Processes that require high-quality video conferencing will need fast, low-latency bandwidth with application prioritization over multiple circuits via SD-WAN.
Here are three industries that are likely to be impacted by the changes over the next few years and the projected networking impacts.
Health care is a huge industry (20% of the U.S. economy), but its notoriously inefficient and hardly known for its customer service. Personally, I would be happy to skip the long waits in germ filled offices if I could access my doctor for minor illnesses online.
Telemedicine, if allowed by regulators, could provide game changing innovation to the patient/doctor interaction. Given a choice, patients may elect to use telemedicine for its convenience (no commute) and potentially better service.
The network is critical to provide the video chat, secure messaging and IoT connectivity ( for temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc.) required to enable telemedicine. Secure, compliant video conferencing services are a must, with accompanying multiple WAN circuits for bandwidth and redundancy, and SD-WAN intelligence for guaranteed quality of service.
Fast food restaurants
As they say, you always have to eat. And, many people continue to favor the convenience of ordering food for scheduled pick-up or delivery – especially since the safety of sit down dining is currently questionable. Large fast food chains are investing to provide automated (less labor) “production” of their menu items with the ability to monitor safety, quality and to scale to peak demands.
Network demands include always on, low-latency connectivity with the ability to network a wide range of IoT and other food services devices. SD-WAN can provide the secure, reliable traffic prioritization capabilities. And 4G/5G will enable firms to rapidly open pop-up locations and monitor take-out service delivery.
Distance learning has been successful for corporate training, but largely a disappointment for higher education such as colleges. Many universities will struggle unless they transform their experience to a lower residency, much lower cost model. Driven by the closure of most schools in spring of 2020, significant resource are being invested in the virtual classroom.
Video conferencing and meeting technologies need improvement to handle large numbers of people online at the same time. A reliable, low-latency network is also key to maintaining voice and video quality. I find that many business meetings that I attend are marred by inaudible voice quality. Presenters need production quality video equipment combined with production quality networking to make distance learning an attractive proposition.
Conclusions and recommendations
COVID-19 has changed all aspects of our daily life in 2020. Its impact on IT and networking is meaningful and ongoing. In my opinion, it is unlikely that we all will just go back to the “way things were” in 2019, and this will continue to impact many industries over the next few years.
An agile network is critical for remote workers and is the foundation for many digital transformation efforts. Networking software innovation can support many of the new requirements, including SD-WAN features for security, network reliability and guaranteed application performance.
Connecting and securing a plethora of IoT devices is also a must. Health care, education and restaurant chains provide three examples—among many—of sizeable industries that will need to rethink their network architectures.
Lee Doyle is Principal Analyst at Doyle Research, providing client focused targeted analysis on the Evolution of Intelligent Networks. He has over 25 years’ experience analyzing the IT, network, and telecom markets. Lee has written extensively on such topics as SDN, NFV, enterprise adoption of networking technologies, and IT-Telecom convergence. Before founding Doyle Research, Lee was Group VP for Network, Telecom, and Security research at IDC. Lee holds a B.A. in Economics from Williams College. He can be reached at [email protected] and follow him @leedoyle_dc
Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by Fierce staff. They do not represent the opinions of Fierce.