Having rushed to embrace digitalization, some organizations are struggling to keep up with the increasing demand for permanent hybrid-working arrangements.

In enabling a future with increasingly diverse and distributed workforces, a resilient technology infrastructure will be critical. However, some studies indicate that around 27% of digitalized organizations have yet to hit on the right networking infrastructure to cope with increasingly needed hybrid work trends.

Against this backdrop, how can businesses and organizations strengthen their network infrastructure and cultivate agility and resilience in an environment where superior digital experiences matter more than ever, and workers’ IT experiences and perceptions are closely interlinked with their productivity, performance and job satisfaction?

Vish Iyer, Vice President (Architectures), Cisco (APJC) shares some insights with readers on the latest ways to get network infrastructure aligned with the increased risks and complexities that tooling up for hybrid-working can incur.

Vish Iyer, Vice President (Architectures), Cisco (APJC)

DigiconAsia: How do unified cloud collaboration and IT solutions bridge an organization’s technologies, locations, teams, and devices—better than a patchwork of various cloud solutions that can also be made seamless and unified?

VI: Trend data seems to indicate workers want a combination of a remote and in-office hybrid working model in the future. However, when it comes to engagement and productivity, the user experience and customer satisfaction are key.

Legacy systems, monolithic software, and multiple vendors for collaboration, networking, and security can create disparate experiences and a fragmented workflow. So, how can an organization’s IT infrastructure become an enabler and deliver a unified experience?

In a fragmented IT landscape, we need to elevate the role of IT to become the unifying force in business that integrates siloed technology and processes and make them unified experiences. As we emerge from the pandemic, the number one priority for enterprises is to enable collaboration, networking, and security to work together to deliver efficient hybrid workflows.

DigiconAsia: Does having single-vendor unified solutions involve lock-in and other risks that organizations should know about?

VI: Not all single-vendor unified solutions involve lock-in. Some are designed to integrate best with the associated brands of hardware and software, but many are interoperable with third-party devices and other business communication applications.

However, the advantage of engaging a single-vendor design is that it allows enterprises to leverage one platform more effectively by maximizing availability and reducing operational expenses, while also boosting agility. This can offer organizations the ability to minimize risk while maximizing service availability and delivery.

With that said, however, a single vendor approach also means that businesses are reliant on their selected vendor to drive innovation. This could spell trouble if a vendor is not able to provide their solution on short notice or if there are delays in the replacement of any parts.  The single vendor versus multi-vendor lock-in dilemma is a genuine concern. Therefore, organizations need to evaluate various solutions in the context of the breadth and depth of the vendor portfolio and relevancy. Also, if a unified platform is considered, make sure that it is open and interoperable.

DigiconAsia: As hybrid/remote-working increases the complexities of corporate networks, the term ‘network intelligence’ is gaining ground. Can you elaborate on this trend?

VI: The power of ‘actionable visibility’ comes from being able to deliver and optimize digital experiences by connecting application performance to business contexts. In a hybrid work environment, the ability to monitor the entire IT stack from customer-facing applications down to core network and infrastructure to identify performance issues (before they affect customers) has never been more important. It is not just about monitoring, but about being able to generate the ‘actionable insights’ to enhance the overall user experience.

Having full-stack visibility gives IT teams full-stack insights, empowering them to prioritize issues that impact the business and end-user experiences, and enables full-stack actions for teams to act with confidence on what matters most to the business. This helps reduce what we typically refer to as the “mean time to innocence”—mitigating issues and helping these teams collaborate and manage events with ease and efficiency.​

The latest ideas about boosting actionable visibility include:

  • an initiative to bring predictive capabilities that help administrators see and plan ahead for network contingencies
  • moving from reactive network operations to proactive network operations by tapping on analytic predictions. When proactive network logic can alert IT teams to potential issues before they can disrupt the user experience, and at the same time offer policy recommendations and path optimization guidance, IT and organizations as a whole can improve digital and workplace experiences.

DigiconAsia: The more complex a network infrastructure, the more difficult it is to implement SASE to address an organization’s expanding attack perimeters. What solutions are on the horizon to simplify and unify cybersecurity management in terms of implementation/management/costing?

VI: The benefits of a secure access service edge model are unlocked when businesses work with a single vendor that can bring together best-in-class networking, security, and observability while offering the flexibility and investment protection to transition to the Cloud at their preferred pace.

To address expanding attack perimeters with SASE, our own approach is made up of 3Cs:

  • Connect: deliver a seamless connection to applications in any environment from any location
  • Control: simplify security, streamline policies, and increase security with a multifunction cloud security service
  • Converge: unite security and networking through a flexible, integrated approach that meets multi-cloud demands at scale

One evolutionary solution expected in this area of hybrid-work networking security is the coming of turnkey SASE offerings that radically simplify adoption. Just a single subscription is needed for organizations to provide a consistent experience to workers anywhere, with simplified spending and improved worker productivity, connectivity and application performance. DigiconAsia thanks Vish for his views and insights.