By: Morten Illum, EMEA Vice President at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company
Within the next two years, Gartner predicts that over 50% of data will be generated at the edge of networks. As the world recovers from the pandemic, this data will play a big role in helping companies survive and thrive in the new order. We have already seen an unprecedented amount of change over the past couple of months, which has led to many organisations accelerate their digital transformation journey – with data sitting at the heart of their strategies.
However, data is a commodity which is not necessarily valuable in and of itself. In order to evolve, organisations need to be able to process and store data securely, they need to analyse and derive insights from it, and they need to drive business outcomes from those insights.
To successfully unlock the potential of data at the intelligent edge, organisations must have a fortified, resilient and secure network in place. With this in mind, here are three network management components that are integral to digital transformation (and therefore data success) in the post-COVID era.
The huge increase in the number of devices generating data means that network traffic is busier than ever. Today’s IT teams require closed-loop, end-to-end access control from the moment devices join the network. However, given the enormous variety of devices connecting to the network, manual human intervention is no longer practical. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in.
Adopted as a ‘sixth-sense’, AI allows teams to develop policies that leverage context, such as the user role, device type, certificate status, location or application to make quick and accurate automated decisions each and every time. When leveraged correctly, AI can even make adjustments before network issues arise. AI-based analytics can ensure that when a device begins to act suspiciously, it is automatically isolated, keeping other traffic separate and secure.
While even the best network engineers can spend hours trying to identify a problem – AI-based platforms do this work automatically with 95% accuracy. What’s more, through automation AI-driven platforms can redeploy time to IT staff, allowing them to focus more on critical thinking, innovation and value-add tasks.
COVID-19 has also exacerbated the issue of overly complex networks based on disperate architectures as organisations attempt to right size for a given location. To address this issue, organisations should focus on network platforms with a unified infrastructure. This allows the entire network to be managed centrally from a single platform, rather than with separate applications across wired, wireless and SD-WAN. It also relieves the IT team from having to manually replicate changes, from campus to branch, and data centre to remote workers. No longer having to swivel chair manage multiple systems, a central platform allows network managers to operate with greater speed and agility.
The rise in remote working, and the need for network managers to seek better visibility and control over increasingly disparate networks, has also led to a stronger emphasis on cloud management. Cloud-native network management platforms allow organisations greater flexibility, offering a simple and intuitive way to manage the deployment and network assurance for wireless, wired and SD-WAN topologies from a single console.
A cloud-based network solution will become increasingly relevant for companies as they adapt to the ‘new normal’ and must find ways to support remote working, social distancing requirements and Track and Trace solutions. When managed from a central hub, a network management platform can correlate cross-domain events to reduce issue resolution time and manual errors, ultimately improving business agility.
Workforce mobility and work from home scenarios continue to expand the IT perimeter, as employees often access corporate resources on personal devices and from public Wi-Fi networks that are not secure. With more applications moving to the cloud – whether sanctioned by IT or not – protecting an organisation’s data has become even more challenging.
Given this, organisations must consider adopting a security framework based on the concept that all entities – both inside and outside the network perimeter – should and must be handled with care (i.e. Zero Trust). In practicality, this approach should ensure the identity of an endpoint, then enforce the policies applied to those endpoints with an application aware firewall. What’s more, network platforms should be underpinned by a collaborative approach which involves sharing information with other security platforms and dynamically adjusting policies to endpoints on the network.
According to IDC, 55 billion devices will be connecting to networks within the next two years and are expected to generate 79.4ZB of data by 2025. When you combine that with the irreversible shifts to a remote and distributed workforce, you can see that the network and IT need the right tools to keep pace. And automation, unified infrastructure and security are good starting points to consider these tools.