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Gearing up for post-Covid times: three buying trends.

Many are wondering when business—and the network infrastructure that supports it—will return to normal. Globalinternet CCO Simon Vye thinks that’s the wrong question.

Covid-19, in addition to its human cost, has delivered a systemic shock to the global economy … a shock that’s snapped supply chains, found fragility in every org chart, and exposed a need for remote working among professionals who’ve never done it. This isn’t a setback, it’s a paradigm shift. And there’s no going back".

- Simon Vye, Chief Commercial Officer - Globalinternet

Like all resilient ecosystems, the world will recover—we just won’t return to that former state. What matters isn’t the New Normal, but the Next Normal. Raising the idea: could that Next Normal be even better?

Here are Simon’s thoughts on three trends he sees defining the post-Covid world—based on recent customer discussions, and backed up with facts and figures from a new OMDIA research report: From private to hybrid to public: Enterprises accelerate toward full internet and SD-WAN

Changing attitudes: cloud services, and the underlay that enables them.

Everyone’s heading for the clouds. Countless businesses are there already. (If you use Google Docs or any other SaaS, that includes you.) It’s not a new concept; organisations have been exchanging data on private networks over the public internet since the first VPNs. What’s changing is the attitude towards it.

In times past, many managers felt vital corporate data needed to stay inhouse, in the server room or corporate datacentre. And a few years back, it was true. (MPLS networks, setting up what amounts to a private circuit connecting local sites, practically required this arrangement.) But in recent years that’s changed dramatically.

“According to Omdia: Among MNCs, IT decisionmakers’ views of their internet services are overwhelmingly positive, with 98% either 'satisfied' or 'extremely satisfied'.”

In the last decade, broadband infrastructure like fibre optics has expanded hugely in capacity. The level of redundancy and load management built into the world’s internet infrastructure is now massive. A near-doubling in daytime utilisation rates—people using their home connections to work from their living rooms—hasn’t troubled it at all, even with the kids watching YouTube all day upstairs.

This is driving even greater interest in SD-WAN over broadband internet, as a much lower-cost and more flexible way to keep your people connected.

If your apps are configured as cloud services over SD-WAN—from Google Docs to enterprise-scale SAP— they’re accessible from anywhere, with much-reduced worries about capacity and security. (The average home broadband connection is faster than many offices, and if 128-bit encryption is good enough for Visa and Mastercard, it’s probably good enough for your business data.)

“SD-WAN on business internet (with the right SLA match) is fast and flexible, and six to ten times cheaper than MPLS—and that’s just an average.”

What does thismean for our Next Normal?

The post-Covid world has to connect people and devices much more flexibly—and MPLS, whatever its past advantages, was never good at rapidfire requirements shifts. That’s why, according to Omdia’s report, 53% of enterprises today are speeding up their move to SD-WAN with an internet underlay. (Well, even a global pandemic can lead to some good outcomes.)

So for more and more businesses, SD-WAN looks like the ideal solution. But not so fast—let’s look next at the buying journey, and see if that leads to the same conclusion.

The buying journey: a fork in the networking road.

In times past, just as people looked to Big Banks to house their money, network managers looked to Big Telecom to carry their data. (Another reason MPLS became common.) But with annual lockdowns looming, those same issues of flexibility and cost are changing the IT manager’s mindset, as fast as his people are changing work practices.

Today, IT professionals aren’t so much looking for a carrier to live with … as a solution provider they can grow with.

“Omdia: 42% of enterprises select their network partners by type of network service.”

That means a technology vendor that fits their needs in situ, not a one-size-fits-all carrier offering the same services to all. It might not mean the same resources at each site, or the same SLA. Tier-1 isn’t always on the wish list; indeed, Tier-1 (with its limited point-to-point capacity) may not even be desired. It might not even mean the same provider across the global network, so long as different local vendors can integrate smoothly to provide a consistent customer experience.

The sound you hear is of a thousand IT professionals gnashing their teeth, because the classic fix to do this, of course, is to go DIY. And that takes serious effort.

Looking at each site individually, and setting it up with local experts, local POPs, a local ISP who can provide the internet underlay for a global SD-WAN can work. It can also sap a huge amount of time from an IT Manager’s calendar. (In addition to his or her day job.) All to get one outcome: a consistent, stable, dependable internet underlay.

“Omdia: more than a third of enterprises consider it likely they will switch internet services partners as new requirements arise.”

ISP aggregators can deliver while smoothing over the complexity of going DIY yourself. It’s an approach that works for Globalinternet’s 600+ international customers.

And if the MNC mindset is moving this fast, the whole connectivity model will too. With SD-WAN providing far more flexibility than traditional MPLS for remote workers, and the performance of SD-WAN dependent on the internet underlay that supports it, it’s looking more and more like SD-WAN plus ISP aggregation is the sweet spot to aim for.

But there’s one more trend, and it’s a moving target.

Moving targets: a new role for mobile services.

Remember WAP? So do we. (Sadly.) But as the G-numbers have mounted, from 2 to 2.5 to today’s 4G and 5G, mobile internet isn’t for emergencies anymore. With speeds hitting 20Mbps even on a bad day, it’s fast turning into a serious option for business connectivity.

(There’s a competitive advantage to be had, too. Here at Globalinternet, one customer hadn’t even been thinking about mobile links. But when he saw the business case, he ordered 600 of them. With coverage high and 5G on the way, what if mobile internet for business was your next secret weapon?)

There’s another reason savvy CIOs are thinking about mobile: guaranteed diversity.

“Omdia: 57% of enterprises have deployed or are willing to deploy mobile internet as a primary service.”

Unlike MPLS, second-sourcing internet connectivity in case of disaster doesn’t cost much. For many of your locations, it might be as simple as an ISP failover that connects to a different ISP, or backs up your data to a third (or fourth, or fifth) party for ironclad security. All covered under your agreement with an aggregator like Globalinternet. (Such detail-oriented stuff forms a large part of what we do.)

So there you have it. Three trends: mushrooming clouds, buying in bits, and the rise of mobile. SD-WAN over internet seems to work for all of them.

Gearing up and moving on.

It’s a basic rule of business that you outsource what isn’t your core competency, so you can concentrate on doing what you’re best at.

Covid-19 has ravaged the global economy and ruined millions of lives—but with our knowledge growing, vaccines showing promise, and the WFH model now firmly established for thousands of professions, we can at least start planning for what’s next. It’s time to get back to work.