While the technological innovation we projected last year held true, 2020 has been a challenging year, to say the least. Specifically, what we observed as a telco was how organisations were struggling to maintain business continuity. We saw an increase in enterprise demand for data networks to enable remote work collaboration. Our network –the largest subsea cable network in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region – witnessed this increase in demand first hand.
While businesses continue to operate, it’s far from usual. The pandemic has changed the way we think of work and we now put flexibility, adaptability and technology at the centre of the workplace. Here are four ways I think technology will make waves for all industries.
1. Network infrastructure to double-down: The new culture of ‘social distancing’ brought on by the pandemic and the subsequent transition of our daily activities into the digital world will champion a new network evolution. As the world continues to make millions of video calls and download more applications, many with cloud capabilities, the ability to support these connections grows more important than ever.
Recent research by TeleGeography has found that demand for international bandwidth is more than doubling every two years, a trend consistent with what we see on our subsea network. Observing this change, we rolled out additional capacity to support this infrastructure with our first large capacity purchase on the new-generation New Cross Pacific (NCP) cable, and a further investment in the Faster cable.
In 2021, we expect to see significant investment in new network infrastructure by companies and governments as remote work and digital consumption continue to grow.
2. Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) and Software-Defined Wide-Area Network (SD-WAN) become business mandatory: SASE security and SD-WAN network management will become the heart of the transformed enterprise from 2021 onwards.
There has been lots of interest in SASE from our customers, and this is with good reason. SASE network architecture has much to offer any truly modern enterprise by unifying network and security as a set of cloud-delivered services to offer a cohesive experience for our organisations and our users. SASE architecture will be vital to empower users with consistent connectivity and security experience.
SD-WAN is another crucial area of investment, with many modern enterprises looking to SD-WAN to reduce costs and increase the flexibility of their large, highly distributed networks. APAC is a geographically challenged and diverse region that poses serious issues for WAN, but many such problems can be resolved by SD-WAN adoption. I expect Asian enterprises with heavy branch density across the region, especially retailers, to continue to lead the charge toward SD-WAN adoption.
Among organisations, we will see a behavioural shift away from ‘survival mode’ to ‘innovation mode’, with the understanding that network and security controls are now cloud-centric and that the adoption of SD-WAN and SASE will help establish a secure foundation.
3. Digital Transformation, transforms: We believe remote work is here to stay in 2021 and beyond. Businesses are recalibrating their digital transformation strategy to support their remote workforce and this is set to continue further.
Based on research we conducted this year, the top business priorities for Southeast Asia and the Australia and New Zealand organisations are improving ICT and security resilience for business continuity purposes. They are investing in Unified Communications (UC) and Collaboration tools, including video conferencing for remote working, accelerating cloud adoption, and looking at role-based ICT solutions that incorporate strong automation and digital tooling.
We expect investments in the area to continue and it will manifest in a phased IT strategy approach. In the short term, companies will procure more UC software licensing; the medium term will focus on digital tooling and Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)-aligned processes; and the long-term focus will be to get the right balance of traditional and digital channels.
4. Cybersecurity will be the backbone of hybrid work
In the rush to secure organisations and ensure remote work overnight, many businesses and their teams unintentionally took part in behaviours that put themselves and the companies they work for into a cyber-vulnerable position. This include actions like signing up for multiple free tools and collaborative online applications, to securing sensitive work devices with vulnerable home networks.
We know that remote work is here to stay. There is hence a need to support the hybrid workforce and ensure that one’s network and their users are better prepared for attacks. We suggest five immediate priorities businesses can explore to secure their workforce, including: streamlining security investments, training employees to be cyber safe at work and on the move, keeping VPNs running and as secure as possible in the short-term, investing in Zero Trust network access to replace aging VPNs in the long-term and building a reliable security foundation for personal devices.
With the above focus, we believe that organisations will not only be able to maximise the productivity of their people, but also create agility and resilience.