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The Network – Now More Important Than Ever

Machine Learning, AI, Agile, Cloud – it’s been a long time since plain old infrastructure stole the headlines from these far sexier instruments of the ‘Digital Revolution’. But given the events of the past several weeks, it’s most certainly time to celebrate the teams who design, build, and operate network infrastructure. Thanks to their efforts, networks have become cool again!

Were it not for the hard work of our customers, colleagues, and friends who build and run infrastructure at scale, our wounded economy would be even more greatly impaired than it is today. Just imagine what’s been accomplished in a timeframe measured by days and weeks, rather than months and years:

  • One firm’s global deployment of Microsoft Teams grew from 80,000 to 350,000 seats in 4 weeks
  • Another firm’s remote access infrastructure scaled to support 250,000 secured work-from-home users in 3 weeks
  • A northeast hospital system went from supporting 20 telemedicine calls a day to more than 4,000 in just two weeks’ time.

It has been reported that the SBA recently processed more loans in 14 days than it approved in the prior 14 years. Indeed, something similar can be said for engineering teams at enterprises of all sizes, who have deployed more secure remote infrastructure in the past 3 months than is typically deployed in a year – or more. And even more importantly – the technology is working, and working well.

This wouldn’t have happened without the successful internal orchestration between IT and sourcing teams, who worked long hours, often overnight, to plan, design, contract, order, secure and deploy network capacity, cloud interconnects, remote infrastructure and collaboration applications to get their teams connected while working from home. And suppliers like Cisco, AT&T, and Verizon came through as well, helping to deliver circuits, licenses, and gear in a record amount of time. Indeed, perhaps provisioning intervals should be revisited on a go-forward basis!

After weeks of sleepless nights, it now seems operations are stabilizing and nearing BAU – or at least the ‘new BAU’ we’re quickly growing accustomed to. Yet even as we do so, we must be prepared for things to change again. Some companies are already making plans to slowly return their employees to their traditional office environment, even if at greatly reduced occupancy. Other firms, however, are embracing the unexpected efficiencies of a work-from-home environment, and are now looking to extend these benefits more permanently in the future.

Across the board, however, pre-existing budgetary headwinds have only grown stronger given the unplanned capital investment required for COVID-19 response and related business continuity planning. Some companies have invested many tens of millions of dollars, and must now drive significant cost reductions to help offset these unplanned expenditures (more to be said on this topic another time). And so, going forward the debate will continue: WFH efficiency vs in-office effectiveness, as companies begin to define the new normal that will work best for them. All debates aside, one thing is for certain: we are all very thankful for the hard work of the enterprise IT community who have persevered to keep business running through this crisis. Congratulations to all who helped to accomplish what many only weeks ago thought truly impossible.