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November 9, 2021 | Matt Pacheco

Network Infrastructure Trends: Long-Term Strategy

Network Infrastructure has undergone some drastic reforms over the past two years. The rapid adoption of remote and home-based computing in 2020 accelerated other networking and infrastructure trends already underway. Cloud-based applications and infrastructure services are augmenting or replacing the traditional enterprise computing model – internal networks guarded by firewalls managed from a data center – at most organizations.

At the same time, the growth of bandwidth-hungry applications is putting greater strains on network capacity. 

How will these trends affect enterprise computing in the near future, and what will your enterprise network infrastructure look like in 2022 and 2023? We spoke with Peter Gallagher, the director of channel partnerships at TierPoint’s partner Megaport, a supplier of cloud connectivity routers and services, about network infrastructure trends after the pandemic. 

The distributed workforce and network planning

Matt:  With the growth of the distributed workforce and a greater emphasis on remote connectivity and cloud services, what do IT and network managers need to include in their 3- or 5-year plans? 

Peter: Businesses recognize that a distributed workforce is the new normal. We’re always going to have to maintain some remote workforce capabilities. The past couple of years we’ve seen a massive expansion of workloads and applications being put into the cloud as companies quickly moved to serve a remote workforce. 

But halfway into 2020 and throughout 2021 we’ve seen more efforts at right-sizing different types of workloads and putting them in optimal environments. Some workloads need to stay in the data center due to data governance requirements or because some applications need to be close to the data. Not everything works best in the public cloud. That’s the new focus now for many IT organizations. 

How edge computing fits into network infrastructure

Matt: Edge computing is one option for improving performance in distributed networks. A recent report from IDC Research forecasts that, by 2023, over 50% of new enterprise IT infrastructure deployed will be at the edge rather than corporate data centers. Is edge computing going to play an important role in achieving optimal network performance, and how can IT organizations improve performance? 

Peter: We’ll continue to see more computing move to the edge because it makes good sense from a performance and asset deployment standpoint. You want to put bandwidth-heavy compute and content at the edge of the network, closest to users or applications that need it. 

Besides edge computing, another important option for addressing scalability and performance is network-as-a-service (NaaS). IT organizations need to be able to scale quickly, and to right-size workloads and applications and put them in the optimal compute environment. 

That is something NaaS provides. Scalable networks allow you to have the right bandwidth at the right time and dial it up or down quickly. NaaS is also good from an asset deployment perspective, so you’re not buying hardware that will be at end-of-life in three or five years. That’s the future of where the network is ultimately going. 

How Office 365 impacts the network

Matt: Migration to Microsoft Office 365 took off in 2020 as office shutdowns forced employees to work from home. How did this increased consumption of Office 365 and other popular software-as-a-service applications impact the network? 

Pete: It made bandwidth demands go up and up. We’ve seen a massive expansion of bandwidth consumption across our entire footprint. As the enterprise started rapidly rolling out migration onto 365 it meant massive data migrations in the front end, and terabytes of traffic coming in and out of Microsoft’s Azure platform. Remember that if you’re an Office company then Teams is your new work platform for just about everything, including constantly pushing video traffic.  

That’s really part of the proliferation of multi-cloud, which came on unbelievably strong in the past year. The heavy demand started with everything moving up to the cloud, including Office, but now there’s also cloud-to-cloud traffic, along with cloud-to-data center traffic, doubling and tripling bandwidth consumption. That’s terabytes and terabytes of data going back and forth. 

What this all means for future network strategy

Matt: How do architects design for the long-term with many of these changes and behaviors taking shape at once? 

Pete: We need to think about what a permanent model for distributed work (or remote work), distributed computing, would look like. Everyone came up with a quick model for the pandemic, but now we need a more sustainable, permanent model. That model will be a hybrid one where some applications reside in on-prem systems and others in the cloud, private and public. It will need to scale and provide the right bandwidth at the right time. 

As I said before, some workloads are best left within the data center. Do you have critical applications that need rapid access to data? Those are best served in the data center. 

What that means as an architect is that I need to spend money both on future-proofing my data center build and on OpEx models like the cloud rather than Capex deployments. The cloud is a scalable, secure, low capital investment that you can turn on if you suddenly need an extra 100 gigabytes. 

Upcoming network infrastructure trends

Matt: What are the most important networking trends you see coming over the next five to ten years? 

Pete: I already mentioned the rapid expansion of bandwidth requirements. We’re seeing a ton of traffic moving between cloud providers, more so than ever before in the past. Another growth area that is putting demands on bandwidth is the Internet of Things, networked devices. There’s an exponential growth of devices needing low latency bandwidth, which also drives the need for more compute resources on the edge. 

The demand for bandwidth will flex the upper boundaries of what network providers are capable of unless they’re forward-thinking and looking ten years out. Megaport is trying to do that now. Partnering will become more common as a strategy for future-proofing. 

IT organizations are already looking at how to partner with network companies, with edge companies, with 5G companies, and even with tower companies if you’re a network provider. Partnering is about building for the future. 

Watch the full interview to learn more

Listen to the full podcast to hear more from Pete on Network Infrastructure trends. Learn how we can help you find the right network services for your business. 

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