CenturyLink

Handling capacity demands

18 May 2020 | Laurinda Pang

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Laurinda Pang, president of international and global accounts management at CenturyLink, spoke about the ICT infrastructure industry's response to Covid-19 during the first edition of Critical Connections. Here, she tells Capacity where the post-pandemic growth opportunities lie and how ICT companies can assist enterprises around the world

How can the ICT industry help enterprise companies in a post-pandemic world?

The first thing we can do is listen to our customers.  They know their individual businesses and priorities better than we do. At the same time, the pandemic reminded everyone how mission-critical global networks are, and thankfully, the investments we have made in smart technologies, edge computing, and content delivery networks, put us in a good place to handle demand.

We were already seeing a significant degree of momentum towards digital transformation before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Technology and solutions built around artificial intelligence, machine learning, and software-defined networks have been driving critical enterprise initiatives, such as “Lighthouse” factories, which rely on digital connectivity to manage customer-centred design, supply chains, and productivity.  I expect this momentum to continue.

Our performance during the pandemic gives us a unique opportunity to be a source of confidence for our customers. We saw some pretty scary supply chain disruptions (as anyone scrambling for toilet paper and hand sanitizers can attest).  I expect a lot of physical and “virtual” hand-holding will take place as we take a closer look at the overall resiliency and the general well-being of companies.  We also expect a greater spend in services that strengthen remote work capabilities, such as edge computing services that ensure consistent, latency-free access to data and applications residing in the cloud. 

How are Content Delivery Networks keeping up with the new demands?

Our CDN traffic has grown 50% since the start of the pandemic, and while smart technologies play a major role in managing overall traffic, simple conversations go a long way, too. 

One of the true positives to come out of this crisis has been a growing willingness of gaming

companies and networking providers to work together to create a good user experience – refining the timing of product launches, expediting network capacity augments between the networks, or the use of different software-defined traffic controllers to reduce network consumption. CenturyLink conducts regular planning exercises with customers, peers and internal stakeholders to ensure optimal CDN performance. By staying proactive, providers can plan capacity augments, work with customers to execute appropriate CDN strategies, and deploy the right technology to ensure a positive customer service. 

We expect elevated levels from gaming downloads will be here to stay, as well as the long-range strategies that we have put into place to meet demand after the Covid-19 crisis is behind us.

 

Where will the growth opportunities lie for stakeholders and key industry players, post lockdown?

Enterprises around the world have been forced to rethink how they can meet the needs of their customers and their employees. We have shown that we can handle capacity demands. The trick lies in where all that data should go. The pandemic demonstrated that remote work arrangements can work on a global scale.  Now we need to see if enterprises will treat our current arrangements as a temporary response to an emergency or a fundamental transformation in the way we work in the future. 

Will we continue to base our connection strategies around centralised offices or do we now need to consider a broader array of access points, including homes? Edge computing will play a major role, as we close the physical gap between wherever the work takes place and the applications and data employees need within the Cloud.  Internet-based collaboration platforms have truly come of age during the pandemic, and the companies that provide these services need a robust network to support them.

I see potential growth opportunities for companies who provide security services, disaster recovery and cloud storage. We also see the need for companies to integrate automation and software-defined networking to help optimise bandwidth for managing drastic changes in traffic patterns that could occur in the future. In addition, enterprises will also take more proactive steps to protect the safety of their employees and their customers, which will change everything from the way we make things and deliver them.

 

What are some things CenturyLink is doing to keep employees safe from the virus?

We were one of the first companies to “send our workers home,” and right now 75% of our workforce is operating remotely. We have also taken steps to protect our people out in the field through programs such as Safe Connections, which allows our technicians to complete critical installations and repairs while minimising the need to enter homes and businesses.  

As our business environments vary, we also work closely with onsite business contacts to identify options that ensure we adhere to social distancing guidelines, such as scheduling work outside of business hours or finding other ways to access equipment rooms. 

We’ll continue to engineer innovative ways to work together to keep customers connected and safe.

Catch up with Laurinda Pang’s Critical Connections session here