WFH: Creating A Change In Network Infrastructure

As promised in a recent blog focusing on Cato Networks’ recent customer survey results – “The 2021 Networking Survey The Future of Enterprise Networking and Security: Are You Ready For The Next Leap?”  – here is more deep-diving into specific elements of the survey, which can be found here:

The Work From Home initiative that came out of the impact of the pandemic was actually long overdue in my eyes, but it also highlighted a fundamental change in the networking landscape. Not only will workforces not be returning, en masse, to the office – 81% of survey respondents indicated that their enterprises would continue with WFH or mixed remote- and office-based workforces – but decisions regarding the fundamental network infrastructure changed markedly too. With WFH and remote access continuing, enterprise budgets and priorities will focus on remote access performance and security but, at the same time, investment in legacy network infrastructure has reduced. Over a third of respondents noted that they froze deployments of branch office SD-WAN appliances, meaning the previous year’s most popular primary use case confronting IT organizations — Replacing MPLS with more affordable alternatives, such as SD-WAN — became the lowest-ranked use case in the new survey with only 28% of respondents seeing this as still being important.

So where are they focusing their attention? Those WFH users need to have the “in office” user experience with the same levels of performance and security at HQ delivered to home users. Here is where the SASE vendors believe they have the answers, and those solutions must be delivered: in the survey, boosting remote access performance went from being the least popular use case previously to become the most popular use case confronting IT in 2021, with 47% of respondents desiring it. Diving more into SASE specifics, the survey uncovered that its perceived benefits were especially evident when the SASE service is a) converged – connecting and securing users and resources everywhere – and b) Cloud-native – applying the cloud’s scalability, elasticity, and agility to handle compute-intensive security and network processing that are often limited in branch appliances historically.

Ironically, the survey found a seemingly contradictory outcome to SASE migration satisfaction, with 67% of respondents indicated they were neutral about the outcome, and just under a third satisfied with their decision.  Digging deeper however, when those SASE offerings were separated by architecture, a different scenario emerged. The survey noted that 58% of respondents indicated they were satisfied with migrating to SASE cloud services, but this contrasted with only 29% feeling the same way about appliance-based SASE. The reality is that network infrastructures are changing out of all recognition compared with, say, 10 years ago. Let’s face it – who actually talks about “networking” in its native form any longer? The elements such as switches, routers, WAN links and similar have all converged into networking as a service in its various forms, SASE being one such example.

Cost of ownership and operating expenses tend to rule the roost now; tied in with this angle, it was interesting to note that, from the survey, early adopters of SASE see it as an economical solution, as well as a secure one, with a whopping 86% of respondents reporting increased security benefits. Efficiency-wise, 70% noted time savings in management and maintenance and 55% reported overall cost savings, as well as greater agility from adopting SASE. This latter note explains why confidence is high in SASE’s ability to cope with future requirements. A more than significant 69% of respondents stated they were very or extremely confident in their networks’ ability to adapt to industry and business challenges, more than any other architecture.

Nothing in this current world is certain, but the shape of networking is changing – that IS a given!


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