Running a business during lockdown can mean you need your network to work in different ways – some you’d planned to implement at some point before the pandemic anyway and some you hadn’t foreseen.
Brian Lappin, head of product management at BT, shares his thought on how to make sure your network edge is in the best position to cope with this and future crises.
For some businesses it’s a case of imagining the network they’d ideally have in place to deal with working in a pandemic.
Networks have already proven themselves to be vital in the current situation across many sectors – from critical services, through to home working and out to logistics and manufacturing.
However, in the scenario we find ourselves in just now, organisations are looking for ways to make changes at the edge of their networks quickly to support their business. But there may be barriers – supply chain issues in delivering hardware or issues around protecting the health of the people installing new services.
It’s challenging us to think differently about how we deliver and manage endpoints that have the flexibility to respond to changes over time or to a sudden event. It raises questions around how we can use endpoints to deploy extra applications or capabilities quickly and remotely, without shipping hardware or sending engineers to site.
So, how can you make sure your network edge fully supports everything your business needs in this and any future crisis?
In search of a truly flexible network edge
I’m seeing fresh impetus to implement new network solutions which would help in times of crisis, with a lot of people looking at the flexibility and success of the hyperscale cloud model as a blueprint. It raises some questions, though, about how you extend this flexibility to the edge of the network in workable ways.
In the current cloud world, you can deploy multiple applications easily onto a single hardware stack, and this can be delivered at a branch level. However, most edge deployments still tie an application to a specific appliance — maybe it’s time to look at this again?
Plus, an increased ability to scale up and down at a branch level would be very helpful to a lot of businesses. Perhaps customers, hardware vendors and service providers should look at how we can work together to provide capacity at the edge that can easily scale?
A platform to support a software-based world
Just as the app store we all rely on is underpinned by a platform that keeps every aspect of adding, downloading and updating apps so simple, we’ll need a similarly effective, simple platform to make the move to a more virtualised, software-based world possible.
The platform I’m imagining provides capacity at a site level to add new applications remotely and it offers a secure way of deploying and managing software – plus you can make changes without adversely affecting anything else in the operating ecosystem. It also offers centralised control to manage multiple endpoints.
Using cost to leverage virtualised edge services
It’s possible that meeting the working restrictions of a pandemic might affect how networks develop by changing the commercials. Currently, many organisations see no great cost benefit to moving to a virtualised service.
But in the new normal, it might not be possible to visit sites to install and maintain boxes and this changes the commercial equation. We may see providers grasping this chance to shift the balance, reducing the cost of their virtualised solutions to make the leap more appealing.
Don’t put off bringing flexibility to your network edge
Before the pandemic there was a real desire from businesses to develop a strategy for their network edge that makes the most of advances in analytics, machine learning and the Internet of Things.
Now, the extra capabilities businesses need from networks are speeding up this focus on the edge and it’s not something you should ignore until things go back to ‘normal’. With the right security safeguards in place, a flexible network edge can help your business thrive now, and into the future.