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As workforces go remote, business and network footprints expand and connectivity becomes key to continuity and business success, IT infrastructure as a whole is transforming from an array of data storage and compute locations into a comprehensively connected network of aggregation points. As the need for connectivity grows quickly, network platform and solutions creators are looking for new ways to help businesses maintain agility, performance, control and cost with dynamic, software-defined solutions — while pivoting to the COVID era themselves.

In order to better understand this shift and the solutions that are powering it, the Independent Data Center Alliance (IND-DCA), a consortium of global independent data center operators collaborating to create single-sourced solutions for buyers, presented a session at The 2020 INCOMPAS Show, which took place online from September 14-16. The “Data Center Interconnection Trends and Capabilities” panel brought together leading industry solution providers to discuss smart connectivity options powered by software-defined networks, the internet and more. Panelists featured here included Ed d’Agostino, VP and General Manager for DE-CIX North America; Bill Norton, Co-Founder of NOIA; Dave Tomassoni, Senior Account Director for PacketFabric; and Mary Stanhope, Chief Marketing Officer for Unitas Global.

To start, it’s clear that the environment from which connectivity and networking demands are coming is changing quickly, so agility and adaptability is a core necessity. As Stanhope observes, this has impacted Unitas because the ecosystem in which it delivers managed connectivity and cloud services has changed. Now, the edge has become very different as people shift to working from an array of remote locations and are connecting to the cloud through various locations, destinations and interconnect points. This means that in order to deliver the solutions that suit new business models, conversations with clients are changing. Now, discussions center on what options are available to increase bandwidth, supplement teams and shift operations and management — many elements of networking and connectivity can’t be accomplished the way they used to be.

The same increase in demand for network capacity is observed by d’Agostino, but from multiple different angles. He notes that customers are not only expanding capacity to suit current demands, but they’re also pre-positioning capacity to remain ready for what is to come. As a neutral exchange provider, DE-CIX is seeing demand across the board both from networks coming in over transport and from businesses looking to take more local colocation at the edge or in order to support remote needs. Furthermore, peak traffic hours have shifted due to remote employees utilizing capacity beyond standard work hours. The at-home corporate sphere is changing not only how much networks support, but when that support is needed as traditional business evolves into something new.

Norton comments on another facet of network usage here that has continued to pervade the changing remote workforce — security. With disparate users all utilizing business applications, achieving tasks and accessing corporate data from home, the network needs to solve for privacy in this geographically diverse environment. While Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have been widely adopted to solve this, they may not be a long-term solution as remote work continues. In Norton’s eyes, it is no longer sufficient for people to work at home and send all of the traffic to a remote data center where a VPN server handles all the traffic and allows them to go out to the internet from there. Instead, he suggests that what’s needed is a thin overlay that provides direct, secure communications for work colleagues and beyond.

From Tomassoni’s perspective, he’s seen many more customers going to the cloud and needing solutions quickly, as opposed to traditional deployment timelines. From the perspective of his company’s software-defined platform, this is the value that customers are depending on — being able to provision services in real time. Overall, it’s clear that connectivity, though it was already rapidly evolving to encompass new partners, platforms and locations, has fundamentally changed in recent months. Where businesses were once centrally located, they are now spread out, and solutions providers are quickly finding ways to support these demands so businesses can flourish — no matter where they are or what requirements they have.

To view the entirety of this panel, please click here.