Working from home is here to stay, increased focus on SD-WAN and zero trust -- network predictions for 2021

2021 predictions

After 2020 managed to turn most of the world on its head, making predictions for 2021 might seem to be a bit risky. Plenty of industry experts have been doing so, however, which means that it's time for our usual seasonal round ups of what you can expect to see from the technology world next year.

One of the biggest impacts of 2020's pandemic has been on networks as more people than ever have switched to remote work. Let's have a look at how the industry thinks this will play out in 2021.

Dave Locke, chief technology advisor at global services provider World Wide Technology (WWT) believes:

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2021 will continue the trend towards 'anywhere operations.' Modern infrastructure is increasingly software-defined and can be managed from any location. This shift will continue to drive continuity in enterprises’ network quality and security, whether employees are in the office, working abroad, or from home. For example, call centre workers might continue to work from home, but businesses will want to secure a minimum standard of call quality and security.

To deliver this, the IT infrastructure needs to be distributed closer to employees. Big cloud scalers are creating products which decentralise stored data and push it into business premises. Services like AWS Outposts will be important to remote working because they allow businesses to have their own mini on-premise cloud, all while remaining connected to larger public cloud infrastructure and its benefits. To meet the associated security challenges of this shift, SASE software, combining wide-area networking, and network security services into a single, cloud-delivered service model, will gain popularity.

The team at cloud services company Zadara think, "Edge/cloud computing will enter into the mainstream. Single large data centers simply cannot overcome latency or sovereignty issues. There are times when they need to run locally on a private cloud and times when the public cloud is better suited. Either way, edge/cloud computing gives businesses the ability to run their infrastructure in a common approach -- no need to design for different architectures in different locations. This portability will drive new initiatives and the adoption of new technology, such as 5G applications running at the edge and addressing certain business functions that a hyperscaler-delivered solution cannot address from a centralized location."

Access management specialist Devolutions believes zero trust will become the norm for securing networks, "With the rising frequency and cost of data breaches, knowing which end users to trust is more difficult than ever. In 2021 we expect the paradigm to shift in many organizations from a 'castle and moat' to a zero-trust approach, in which no end user is automatically trusted, regardless of whether they are behind the defense perimeter. Instead, prior to accessing privileged accounts or networks, end users must be authenticated through technologies such as MFA, IAM, encryption, analytics, and so on. If they pass the test they are allowed though. If not, then they are kept out."

Jasen Meece, CEO of Cloudentity echoes this view, "There's no doubt that COVID-19 and the shift to remote work have accelerated Zero Trust adoption in the enterprise. In 2021 and the following years, implementing a Zero Trust approach will become essential to protecting every enterprise, regardless of industry. This is due to the increasing volume of cyberthreats that organizations and individuals face on a regular basis, and human error remains one of the top causes of security breaches. In fact, roughly one-quarter of all data breaches are caused by human error, with the average cost of $3.92 million for each breach, according to a report from the Ponemon Institute. As a result of this growing issue, the Zero Trust Model will become the new standard, in which all users, even those inside the organization's enterprise network, must be authenticated and authorized before being able to access apps and data."

Todd Rychecky at Opengear, a leader in network management, security and resilience solutions thinks, "Edge-heavy networks will require smarter management tools. Shifting from command line interface to NetOps automation will be mission critical to ensure continuity." He also believes, "A new virtual security paradigm for remote access will be needed: IT departments have historically relied on physical security to protect assets. Now, as remote access and WFH is a must, management must adapt to secure assets."

Rahul Pawar, vice president of product management at Commvault thinks intelligent endpoint data management will be a priority, "The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in employers around the world asking millions of employees to work from home that had not done so before. As a result, many employers and employees realized that working from home delivered them significant benefits (shorter commutes, lower office space expenses). This has led many employers to institute policies that will enable their employees to work from home at least a few days a week even after the pandemic (hopefully) subsides. However, one drawback facing companies whose employees are working from home is that they have much less control over data protection, data privacy regulatory compliance, and other aspects of data management than they do when these employees connect their laptops to their office's corporate network. At the same time, ransomware and other cyberattacks are increasing, while governments are implementing and enforcing stricter data privacy regulations. Because of this, expect in 2021 to see more companies deploy solutions that allow them to intelligently protect, govern, and otherwise manage the data on their employees' laptops and other endpoints. In particular, expect to see growth of intelligent data management solutions that use AI and similar technologies. Using these technologies these solutions can detect anomalous behavior indicating a ransomware attack, or private customer information stored in a place or manner it should not be, allowing companies to nip ransomware, data privacy and similar data management problems in the bud."

Angelique Medina, director at Internet intelligence company ThousandEyes says, "In 2021, as remote employees become a permanent fixture alongside (fewer) branch offices, more SD-WAN technology options will be rolled out for the home office. Security functionality has been a recent top priority for SD-WAN vendors, but we'll see a shift in gears as vendors become increasingly pressured to provide solutions that are scalable enough to deploy in every employee’s home office environment. Rather than solely relying on VPNs to backhaul or split-tunnel traffic, enterprises will start to adopt centralized solutions to manage and enforce policies that route employee Internet traffic securely, with optimal performance."

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