Lessons Learned About Internet And Networking Infrastructure Due To COVID-19
This past October 29, the world celebrated the golden anniversary of the day when a message was sent over ARPANET, the experimental computer network that later evolved into the internet that we use today.
The internet inspired a technology revolution that reshaped the global economy and the way of life but few might have predicted the occurrence of a pandemic around its 50th anniversary.
COVID-19 is putting unprecedented strain on networks and all areas of our lives have shifted to online platforms. Starting from office work to academic classes and connecting with friends and family, all crucial tasks in our life are growing more dependent on the internet. Nearly 9 out of 10 adults in the US said that the internet has been either essential or important for them during the crisis, as per a Pew Research study.
The COVID-19 pandemic situation is a demonstration of how digital networks perform under extreme stress. Their performance will have lasting implications of the way infrastructure is built and maintained even after the pandemic-generated emergency subsides. Below are some key observations:
Internet Showed Remarkable Resilience
The surge in traffic numbers was way too large when compared with the pre-pandemic period. Many telecom providers report that traffic has at least doubled with millions of users entering online platforms. Services like Slack and Zoom have recorded very significant growth.
Despite all these challenges, the internet has held up well except for the occasional issues in video conferences, loading a website, and marginally slower speeds in the US.
What can be inferred at this point is that improvement is always possible and the foundation of the internet remains strong, although modernizing the broadband infrastructure of the nation is to be continued. However:
IT Systems And Teams In Companies Are Under Pressure
Due to the sudden influx of remote workers, organizations are bothered by a new challenge: keeping the remote workers connected and productive, all the while prioritizing security and business continuity.
Traditionally-configured VPN servers easily become overwhelmed due to the insufficiencies in their design that make it difficult for them to handle this much traffic. Meanwhile, home networks that depend on WiFi routers do not have the level of security that an enterprise network requires.
This has urged organizations to discover ways that assure security and performance, all the while preparing to scale up to address the changes in traffic patterns and the surge in the numbers of remote workers.
Companies have to use a proactive approach to tackle these challenges in the shortest possible time and with maximum efficiency. This can be achieved by using comprehensive strategies that intend to offer the same network reliability, security, and ease of use and management that the organization had before it became a team of remote workers.
The point is going to be relevant even after the crisis passes because there is an increased likelihood for the set up to remain permanent in the corporate world. About 75% of CFOs and finance leaders are planning to ask at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to continue working remotely even after the pandemic. This is according to a Gartner survey.
The Importance Of Cloud Has Increased Like Never Before
It has now become impossible to imagine a world without the cloud. COVID-19 is only going to bring a surge in the adoption of cloud infrastructure and services. With the cloud systems becoming more integral, companies have realized the importance of reducing the complexity and operational costs that are associated with building and managing public, private, and hybrid clouds.
As a result, increasing demand for advanced cloud capabilities can be predicted. These capabilities include automation and orchestration that facilitates the organizations and service providers to design and operate more efficient, scalable, and flexible multi-cloud infrastructures with the assistance of fewer human operators.
Infrastructure Has To Become Self-Driving
You can name it self-aware, autonomic, self-healing, cognitive, or self-driving. No matter what name you choose, the concept of networks that are capable of automatically observing, learning from, and responding to changing conditions has been envisioned by computer scientists for many years.
Enterprises have become largely reliant on such capabilities to simplify network infrastructure and this is gaining increasing importance with more being expected from our digital networks. We cannot expect already-strapped IT teams to address every performance issue manually.
For instance, we can constantly obtain performance data from all systems across the infrastructure and use machine learning and AI to examine the behavior of all systems and recommend or automatically take necessary actions.
The last weeks have clearly demonstrated the value of self-driving networks that capture data, analyze it, and implement automation to adapt to changing conditions, with minimal human intervention.
Although the internet is 50+ years old, we may find this pandemic period as the time it progressed when we look back after a few years.