The historical model of the enterprise, with in-house staff based around a corporate headquarters and a handful of branch offices, is a good fit for traditional enterprise technologies: including a wide-area network that lets offices collaborate as one and share central resources.
But that’s a model that no longer works in 21st Century. Standard WAN technologies like MPLS were designed two decades ago when branch offices sent traffic back to a main headquarters or data centre, and they’re no longer ideal for enterprises who increasingly rely on cloud apps for everything from personal productivity tools to CRM, and who were forced to massively migrate their entire workforce to work-from-home in early 2020.
For the CIO who is serious about future proofing their technology infrastructure in order to handle the next emergency more gracefully – be it another lockdown or something else – it’s time to put cloud utilities and flexible tools like SD WAN at the centre of the strategy.
Cloud first, SD WAN first
It’s not surprising to see the numbers now coming in about cloud growth in 2020. Gartner says that desktop-as-a-service cloud tools have increased 95.4% during 2020, to be worth an estimated $1.2 billion. It pinpoints cloud as the key tool that allowed enterprises to remain productive. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there were a few initial hiccups but cloud ultimately delivered exactly what it was supposed to,” Sid Nag, research vice president at Gartner, said this summer. “[Cloud] responded to increased demand and catered to customers’ preference of elastic, pay-as-you-go consumption models.”
He notes that for many enterprises, the pandemic ended any debate about the utility of public cloud.
In truth, the same could be said for the flexibility of SD WAN. As I mentioned in my previous blog, SD WAN is recognised as a utility that allows organisations to increase efficiencies, become more flexible and react faster to change. Whereas MPLS might be the default choice for many CIOs when they think about connecting enterprise resources, the whole conversation changes when team members are no longer in branch offices but rather working from home, and the cloud is your destination.
Employees discovered during lockdown that they could use their home Internet connection to go straight to company applications in the cloud, without taking a detour via a VPN back to the office.
In fact, interesting insights recently from Nemertes Research revealed that most traffic on enterprise WANs is no longer internal. Instead, most traffic originates from staff located outside the office, accessing resources that are also outside the office.
This outside-to-outside traffic flow underscores the fact that SD WAN, with its ability to secure the home Internet connection, is now a natural first choice. It allows companies to build an enterprise networking infrastructure that's fit for how they work now -- not how they worked a decade, or even a year ago.
Smaller organisations lead the way in cloud-first and cloud-only
At CKH IOD, what we have discovered is that it is mid-sized businesses who are among the first to go cloud-first and cloud-only with their enterprise information strategies.
For example, we worked with one organisation across eight locations which had previously connected its sites with dedicated connections, until it realised that its guest Wi-Fi network could replace that connectivity, more affordably and more flexibly.
Making the jump for that organisation wasn’t painful, as the vast majority of its day-to-day applications such as Office 365 and CRM were already in the cloud. We recognise that making the leap is more difficult for organisations such as those in the financial sector, for example, who may rely on dedicated, highly secure, on-site applications that cannot migrate as quickly to the cloud.
But it is worthwhile for every organisation to look at how to make this transition in the medium term. Instead of the in-house data centre with several racks of computers hosting essential applications, how can some of these be put into virtual machines in the cloud?
How could the organisation as a whole benefit from the financial flexibility of pay-as-you-go cloud computing, where cost can be linear with the amount of power needed, and where hardware obsolescence can be completely avoided?
At CKH IOD, we work with organisations to help them become fit for the future, and ensure that their corporate network can support their needs now and into the future, including the needs of both employees and of customers. A migration away from all-MPLS as the default, and exploring how SD WAN can augment the WAN, makes sense as enterprises move to a cloud-first model, and need the security of the old with the flexibility of the new.
For more information on how CKH IOD works with enterprises, explore our Enterprise Services