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Riverbed’s IT trends and predictions for 2021

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By: Mena Migally, Regional Vice President, META at Riverbed Technology

At Riverbed, we have focused on helping our customers quickly scale work-from-home models with application acceleration and network performance management solutions that keep remote workers productive and networks running and secure.

It’s no surprise that the rapid and dramatic change in workforce operating models in 2020 have forced organizations to rethink how they plan and manage their networks and workloads. While Middle East governments are rolling out their vaccination campaigns at an accelerated pace, even in the post-COVID world, IT decision making processes will remain forever altered as businesses adapt to new technical challenges, new ways of working, and new attitudes towards privacy and security.

Against this backdrop, here are Riverbed’s IT Predictions for 2021:

  1. Organizations fundamentally rethinkingtheir approach to IT

No one expected the massive disruption that Covid-19 caused, so there was never any detailed plan regarding how to optimize existing IT infrastructure for work-from-home environments. With no definitive end to the pandemic or the WFH experiment, many organizations opted for a patching approach — making small fixes as the need for them became obvious. This may have been acceptable at first, but, as continual data breaches and security mishaps have taught us, a patching approach won’t cut it as a viable, long-term IT strategy in 2021.

Through this year, we can expect organizations to adopt a more long-term view that will better position them for the future of work. We have reached an inflection point as business leaders have begun to realize the risks associated with the patching approach, while beginning to recognize the ROI that structured changes and IT investments can deliver. This is an important moment in the story that began in March and we’ll look back at it as a time when the ‘winners’ of the early 2020’s laid the groundwork necessary to emerge from the pandemic as truly evolved, resilient enterprises.

  • Enterprise networks and workplace policy move ‘closer to home’

To empower and enable remote workers, organizations will begin to offer WFH-conducive alternatives to in-office enterprise networks. While the blurring of the lines between professional and personal usage of smart devices has been an ongoing trend in recent years, the concept of BYOD has taken on new meaning through the pandemic. With email, messaging and enterprise mobile apps readily available for mobile platforms, employees now regularly use their own devices for both personal and work-related purposes. Working from home has also created scenarios where individuals using two different devices may be regularly tapping into the same home network to access proprietary or otherwise sensitive information from two different organizations.

How can organizations ensure the security of company data and the separation of personal digital identities from professional digital identities? The answer may lie in dedicated 5G networks that remote employees can access from their personal devices. This would give companies a single dedicated network to focus their security efforts and may help keep personal data flows separate from the enterprise-specific activity, while also addressing at-home bandwidth issues. With dedicated 5G networks or other solutions, hard boundaries (both for the network and for workplace policy) will need to be established between personal and professional digital identities. This will require new kinds of digital workplace norms, organization-wide understanding of security, and intelligent IT policy working together to ensure that employees are both protected and empowered in hybrid work environments.

  • New pressures promote adoption of SD-WAN

With remote working has proven its ability to facilitate business continuity, we are sure to see organizations offering their employees added flexibility by shifting to hybrid, mobile-first environments. As employees split their work-week between traditional and home offices, it makes a strong case for enterprises to rent, rather than own, much of their IT infrastructure. This will create new demand for multi-tenant SD-WANenvironments. Two primary capacities of SD-WAN—connecting branches with the data centers, and onboarding to the Internet—will need to be more deeply explored from the context of hybrid work environments. Whether SD-WAN deployments will slow remains to be seen. What is clear is that the relationships between IT teams, SD-WAN vendors, and other solution providers will need to evolve to meet the new needs of a hybrid workforce.

What Lies Ahead

The changes and challenges of 2020 hit the enterprise at breakneck speed. While organizations across the Middle East have adapted quickly and admirably, many are still taking a thorough look at their performance. Much of this introspection was inevitable as the pandemic simply accelerated IT trends that were already emerging in recent years. Rather than a sign of what’s to come, the past year is an indication of what’s already here, and here to stay. Decision-makers will need to reflect quickly, develop clear strategies around privacy, mobility, SD-WAN, and network management, and then make investments to support their workforce as it continues to evolve.

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