NTT recently held a closed-door roundtable discussion for IT and technology leaders in Australian organizations, with additional insight and contributions from Carl Solder, CTO of Cisco ANZ, and Louise Francis, Research Director at International Data Corporation ANZ.
After participating in some animated discussions, it’s clear to us that the future of networking and cybersecurity is bright in a resilient business. Read on to get the highlights from our discussion.
Managing smarter networks, smartly
Key themes in all our conversations were how ready our networks are today, and what investment decisions we need to make to accommodate the applications, technologies and user expectations that are coming down the line.
Our networks have already become increasingly complex in many ways, so we need to become smarter in how we manage and operate them, as well as in how we learn from the insights we can derive in order to make decisions at the velocity a digital business demands.
Workspaces must ‘earn the commute’ for hybrid workers
Most organizations have adopted a permanent hybrid-working model with a blend of in-office, remote and hybrid workers. This is having an impact in all sorts of ways. It’s more than just ensuring that all users, regardless of location or connection, have a similar experience and secure access to all the resources and tools they need to perform their jobs; it’s also fundamentally about how we define the workplace and what role we want it to play in the future.
As one of our Sydney roundtable attendees said, if we want our people back in the office, we must be “earning the commute”. We can’t just replace the experience of working from home. We must create new workspaces and give users a compelling purpose to come back to the office.
Our traditional CBD and office spaces are undergoing a transformation, but we don’t just want to be designing new spaces for our users. We should also use the opportunity to make fundamental changes to the way we think about the overall experience, the facilities, and all the equipment and devices we use in these spaces.
Use the network in smart buildings for sustainability
A universal driver for most of our roundtable attendees is sustainability. Transforming or rebuilding our office spaces is a great opportunity to be more sustainable, and the network plays a key role in this.
If you’re reimagining your workspace, use the opportunity to:
- Network as many devices as possible, not just the traditional connected office equipment.
- Unify the management of your traditionally separate IT and operational technology environments.
- Reduce cabling infrastructure and increase your ability to manage and control energy usage by running Power over Ethernet (PoE) to every compatible piece of equipment in the building.
- Increase the performance and coverage of wireless through private 5G and Wi-Fi 6.
- Use AI and machine learning to automate power-saving measures across the entire facility, such as using sensor readings to automatically turn off building lights when the brightness reaches a certain level, or to close blinds on certain windows to reduce radiant heat and take the load off the air-conditioning.
Invest in infrastructure skills now to get benefits in the future
Speaking of AI, it’s already there in the network and will only increase in its influence. To take full advantage of the future benefits of composable infrastructure and automation, it’s important to invest more in the software skills of your infrastructure team now.
AI won’t just push the boundaries of enterprise network automation by optimizing performance for different applications and data packets or predicting the best path options for different sites and users. Large language models and generative AI like ChatGPT will fundamentally change how network engineers and administrators configure and troubleshoot.
AI and analytics are also having an impact on observability: we now have so much more telemetry data being generated on the network. We can ingest and analyze that data to increase our visibility of the user experience as well as device and application performance to identify where the issues are occurring and, where possible, automate their resolution.
In fact, we can even deploy devices that emulate the user experience and report back, so the issue can be fixed before a user is even affected. A good example of this is the Cisco Aironet Active Sensor that can be plugged into any PoE port or electrical socket, ideal for validating wireless client performance in any specific location.
How to secure the corporate network
Last but most important is security. We are long past the days of simply securing the traditional network perimeter; we now need to think of the corporate network as a large and diverse campus environment that protects both the user and the corporate assets.
This means we need a ubiquitous security posture, regardless of location, and greater investment in strategic approaches like zero trust and secure access service edge (SASE) – particularly as the applications and data we are accessing could be coming from any combination of public-cloud, on-premises data centers, colocation facilities and edge locations.
Why is the future so bright?
We are at an inflection point where the rise of automation and generative AI is coinciding with software-defined networking and an exponential increase in data available from our networks and connected devices. With the visibility we now have across our networking environment, and the insights and action we can take as a result, things are only getting better.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
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