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Top 10 networking stories of 2021

Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 networking stories of 2021

The new hybrid model of work that companies are having to adopt and adapt to basically makes permanent the whole concept of supporting mass distributed workforces. There is no return to things as they were before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Leaders in the world of networking have been attempting to address these new dynamics over the course of the past two years. Companies that will gain an advantage are those that will not only get the appropriate technology out there but those that can articulate clearly and precisely how such technology can resolve the challenges that end user companies have been facing over the past year or so.

That is, new hybrid workplace environments are demanding connectivity and security technologies to keep employees productive and able to collaborate. Business leaders rate growth as their highest priority, but have to contend with unpredictability and change.

This means securely managing networks across multiple international datacentres as workforces become more distributed, centralising management in the cloud and adopting and implementing techniques such as secure access service edge (SASE), in addition to and as an evolution of software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) infrastructures – within the broader context of the extended enterprise and business. And to do this with noticeably increased ease of use, even though the networks in themselves are becoming more complicated.

For the vast majority of end user businesses, this is a transformation of processes rather than just implementing technology.

With this in mind, here’s a look back over Computer Weekly’s top 10 networking stories of 2021.

1. Extreme Networks aims to enhance SD-WAN offer with Ipanema acquisition

Extreme Networks revealed its intention to acquire Ipanematech SAS, with the aim of expanding its advanced networking portfolio and offering new cloud-managed software-defined wide are area networking (SD-WAN) and security services.

The company, known as Ipanema, is the SD-WAN division of Infovista, and its services are designed to adjust application traffic flows based on real-time network conditions, providing increased performance and improved quality of experience – even under diverse conditions across various types of cloud-managed WAN connectivity.

2. Flourishing fibre buildouts and SD-WAN spur network tech market

Research from the Dell’Oro Group revealed a bullish future for fundamental enablers of the business network market, in particular for broadband access equipment and software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN).

Looking at the former, the Broadband access and home networking quarterly report calculated that total global revenue for the broadband access equipment market reached $3.6bn in the second quarter of 2021, up 7% year-on-year, with growth coming from cable and passive optical networking infrastructure investment.

The collective global share of the leading suppliers remained relatively stable between the end of 2020 and the first half of 2021, with the top seven suppliers comprising around 81% of the total market. Of the leading suppliers, the analyst estimated that Huawei and Nokia had lost some ground over the past six months, while Cisco, Ericsson, Samsung and ZTE recorded minor share gains over the same period.

3. Colt claims first with 400GE optical services to Hong Kong and Singapore

Colt Technology Services announced the availability of its 400GE Wave and Private Wave services, making it the first telco to offer the technology in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Since the launch of its IQ Network in 2016, Colt Technology Services has begun a drive into optical networking via a programme of investment, testing and deployment.

Colt’s IQ Network, which comprises more than 29,000 on-net buildings and 900 datacentres, as well as its customer and network edge locations, is designed to deliver improved performance, enhanced control, flexibility and scalability to customers running on a fully owned and operated dense fibre network that enables enterprises to benefit from an end-to-end connection to the cloud.

4. How SASE is set to determine the future

Digital transformation has become the watchword for many organisations in recent years. It’s a nebulous term, meaning different things to different people. In some cases, it’s been a full root-and-branch revamp of an entire infrastructure, defining business processes, changing organisational structure and completely upgrading technology; in other cases, there have just been tweaks here and there.

For any business that really wants a transformative approach, SASE will be key. When Gartner introduced the term in 2019, it was a seen as a convenient shorthand for the integration of security and networking services. In particular, it offers support for multiple suppliers – something particularly important in today’s modern enterprise. However, although this sounds superficially attractive, there are difficulties in the management of SASE implementations.

5. GTT teams with Palo Alto to power SASE platform

Global cloud networking provider GTT Communications joined forces with cyber security firm Palo Alto Networks in a managed security service partnership to power a new SASE platform.

The firms cited research from IDC, which estimated that 53% of workers are planned to continue to work remotely or adopt a hybrid home-office arrangement as a result of the pandemic, and said organisations need secure and flexible global network systems to adapt.

6. Aryaka announces ‘all-in-one’ SD-WAN, SASE offerings for hybrid workplace

Aryaka launched what it called “all-in-one” SD-WAN and SASE offerings for multiple enterprise segments to accelerate cloud adoption and increase business agility.

The company said that businesses across the world are still dealing with rapid change and unpredictability that has been further exacerbated by the pandemic, and that, as a result, enterprise leaders are moving to cloud-first models as they accommodate the needs of a workforce that is outside the traditional office.

New hybrid workplace environments are demanding connectivity and security technologies to keep employees productive and able to collaborate, but this is disrupting the status quo of legacy telco managed technologies and complex do-it-yourself services, said Aryaka.

7. AT&T launches a managed SASE offering with Cisco

AT&T launched a portfolio of managed secure access service edge products in collaboration with Cisco.

Customers familiar with Cisco’s SASE platform will recognise the basic features of the service, from firewall and secure web gateway functionality to DNS layer security. Unlike Cisco’s independent offering, the AT&T product is a managed service, priced depending on specific customer needs.

8. WD-40 eases network friction with SD-WAN, SASE

WD-40, the world-renowned brand for specialist solvents, deployed Aryaka’s managed SD-WAN and SASE service to build a flexible, reliable and secure network for its operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  

Since 1953, WD-40’s principal product has become known as “the can of 2,000 uses”, known for its effectiveness in fighting rust and corrosion. The company has grown to have offices in 13 countries and has annual revenues of more than $400m, and was looking for ways to transform its operations for the 21st century. 

However, as it has grown, the company could not spray away friction in its network and has of late struggled as a result of inflexible, decades-old MPLS technology which did not allow its global operations to carry on easily or securely.

9. Poor connectivity risks jeopardising switch to hybrid working

Hybrid working will be a fixture for firms as they adapt to the post-Covid working environment, but a survey from CityFibre and the Chartered Management Institute warned that a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change working practices for the better in the UK could be jeopardised without further action on connectivity reliability.

The poll found that an overwhelming majority of managers – 94% – agreed that improved broadband connectivity would enable the digitally excluded to undertake job roles that can be done remotely in the UK.

10. Hospitality firms must accelerate digital transformation to secure long-term recovery

Research from Aruba showed that the whole sector must accelerate its digital transformation to fuel long-term recovery, or risk customer abandonment and falling further behind.

There has been a significant step-change in the adoption of technology and digital services, but while some hospitality businesses have been able to welcome online models, huge swathes of the industry have been forced to remain dormant, leaving many digital advancements relatively untested or stagnating.

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