Covid-proofing the WAN: WAN Wednesday

WAN Wed Orange Isch and Perrin.jpg

This idea that ‘I can get by’ is coming to an end very rapidly, webinar hears

The response to Covid-19 among enterprise network managers is moving from survival to long-term planning, according to John Isch and Laurent Perrin from Orange Business Services (OBS), with performance and user experience now taking centre stage.

Appearing on the WAN Wednesday podcast series, Isch and Perrin discussed how enterprises are pivoting their strategies to ensure high-quality network performance – starting from the short-term quick fixes and moving towards more long-term solutions such as new LAN technologies and mobile SSL.

In the early days of the crisis, it was a case of adapting not just to new connectivity models but also to new user behaviour. “The issue was not just the number of simultaneous connections, but one of bandwidth as well,” said Perrin. “People were not just working from home, they were working differently, using many more video-based applications. This was not the original use edge we had on these home working solutions.”

However, connectivity issues were not the only hurdle faced by enterprises in the early days of Covid. “Talking to our customers, the main point of frustration has been local infrastructure. Do the users have enough laptops? Do they have capacity at their home offices? Our enterprise customers were saying that they could get users into the network and get them to where they want to go, but only if they had a laptop and good enough home internet,” said Isch.

This lack of true work-from-home infrastructure has led to some interesting solutions for OBS clients that were unable to send users home en masse. A case study touched on in the podcast was a company that needed to extend remote user numbers very quickly, which was achieved by using public cloud to deploy a mobile SSL solution.

“In a few days we were able to extend the number of users by allowing them to connect to the SSL solution in the cloud, and then to private resources within the VPN thanks to the connection between cloud providers, our networks and our customers. This is very important in manufacturing where users must be able to access private applications. We already have a project to develop what we call flexible application access to give users access from anywhere, and this will provide more capability to the users,” said Perrin.

How can enterprises move from the reactive phase to proactive planning for a post-Covid world? One potential area is new LAN technologies, which look to be ideal for network managers that need to plan for social distancing in their setups.

“If people are coming back to the offices that can only run at 50% capacity, there are new LAN and Wifi technologies to measure user density and check how many people are in the office and where their devices are. This is an excellent time to bring a technological solution to a social distancing problem – improving reporting, and keeping people safe,” said Isch.

With the dust settling on the first phase of Covid, a lot of digital transformation roadmaps are going to need some heavy re-routing – a pandemic is unlikely to have formed part of many enterprise disaster recovery plans.

“Companies established disaster recovery plans for the inability get to a data centre or data centres going offline, but they didn’t plan for nobody being able to get to the office.”

Rewriting these plans tells network manages not just where users are going, but where they are connecting from. This will lead to more SD-WAN in the home office, which will give much greater visibility and troubleshooting ability – something which is not possible if enterprises stick to the quick fix of VPN, according to Isch.

Looking past the technical solutions, the lasting legacy of Covid-19 will be a convergence of the home and the workplace connectivity experience, the guests told WAN Wednesday – with a focus on providing excellence and not just survival.

“We need to give the end user a similar service wherever they connect. We are investing a lot in end-to-end performance management, as we want to move from the traditional way of managing SLAs in the network towards end user visibility, which will make more sense in a world where managers need to get performance data whether users are travelling, in the office or working from home,” said Perrin.

“During the crisis the main topic was the ability to connect, but in the mid and long term it will be about performance and user experience.”

Isch said: “This idea that ‘I can get by’ is coming to an end very rapidly – we will soon be asking what a really good home working experience looks like, not just an adequate one.”


Listen to Episode 13 of the WAN Wednesday podcast: ‘Covid-Proofing the WAN with Orange Business Services’, on Spotify or