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Looking Ahead: The Lasting Effect from 2020’s Network Architecture Change

By Patrick MeLampy, Juniper Fellow
January 12, 2021
Looking Ahead: The Lasting Effect from 2020’s Network Architecture Change

It’s that time of year again where we look forward and think about what we can expect to see develop over the course of the next twelve months. Maybe more so than any other year in recent history, the world is ready for the new year to arrive.

With the momentous changes that the pandemic brought in 2020, remote work became the norm out of necessity – and companies had to rapidly enable their employees to be as efficient and productive at home as they were in the office. This quick shift led many companies to undergo long-planned digital transformations, seemingly overnight. To foster a quick turnaround and empower success, some sacrifices were made and shortcuts taken along the way.

The Middleman Has Been Eliminated – and Will Stay Dead
For years, business networks were rightfully concerned with controlling all of the traffic that traveled through their networks. Traffic was routed through a company’s data center, ensuring its rules, regulations and security was enforced all the time.

But in 2020, the recent trend of shifting network architecture to eliminate the middleman started to really catch fire. Either by necessity or by design, companies realized that there is no need to run every piece of traffic through their own data center or VPN. For the sake of productivity, efficiency and bandwidth, companies set up employees to connect directly with the cloud services being used.

This really highlighted two things: (1) sometimes it takes a crisis to force a change in approach; and (2) not all traffic needs to be treated the same. For the most part, the cloud services that employees were using would be secured by the vendor software being used. This trend has forever changed the shape of network traffic. Instead of going from the cloud, through the company, and to the employee; traffic can now go directly to the employee.

The amount of data flowing through a company’s networks is increasing every day. There’s no reason to route a Zoom session through the company’s systems, and separating this traffic from traffic such as correspondence with government clients that needs to be doubly protected will benefit the company in bandwidth costs and efficiency. The new network structure that has taken hold eliminates the middleman, allowing traffic to be offloaded from the data center once and for all. Different types of traffic can be prioritized or de-prioritized based on importance and security needs.

Information and Visibility Will Be More Critical Than Ever Before
It’s often said in IT circles that the time it takes to resolve problems is the biggest waste a company experiences. It’s a waste of time, energy and dwarfs all other technology expenses.

The permanence of at least some form of remote work, combined with the need to understand specific types of traffic and how each should be treated and managed inside or outside your network, means it has never before been so critically important for companies to gain insight into what exactly is going on inside their networks.

Companies need to invest in solutions and methods to automate this traffic information and routing, so they can ease the bandwidth of their data centers, while ensuring what needs to be protected is, and what doesn’t isn’t taking up valuable space. Having this information automatically optimizing their networks will have another benefit as well – it will speed the ability for IT teams to identify and pinpoint problems, leading to faster resolutions.

With a majority of today’s companies being fully dependent on being connected and able to work without interruption, minimizing disruptions is directly tied to business success.

Even as vaccinations increase and the pandemic wanes, remote work is never going away. This trend has forced companies to understand that not all traffic is created equally – and not everything needs to be passed through the company network. There are advantages to understanding your traffic and matching the action to the network need.

As we enter 2021, companies across all industries will come to understand that, while connecting employees directly to their businesses’ cloud services instead of going through the company data center was at first a solution borne out of necessity, it exposed the truth that understanding your traffic and managing it based on need instead of a tradition has many benefits.