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Extend, Accelerate, Adapt and Secure: 4 Predictions Driving Connectivity in Canada in 2021

Extend, Accelerate, Adapt and Secure: 4 Predictions Driving Connectivity in Canada in 2021 

While the experience of working from home during the pandemic may not be ideal, it’s given the workforce a taste of what could be – greater flexibility, cost savings, and the chance to live almost anywhere. For employers, it means a limitless talent pool, lower real estate costs, and a smaller carbon footprint; but it also creates a significant connectivity challenge.

The increase in remote work is also driving up demand for the type of network bandwidth needed to support the volume of voice and video traffic now travelling across the internet. The latest Global Interconnection Index (GXI), an annual market study published by Equinix, shows that the pandemic has already had a dramatic effect on how businesses are planning their digital infrastructure initiatives over the next three years. In particular, telecommunications, cloud and IT services, content and digital media and technology providers, are forecast to increase private connectivity bandwidth 5x by 2023.

In order to solve these challenges and meet changing digital connectivity needs, we have identified four key trends that will play a major role in 2021: 

Trend #1: Businesses need to extend their reach, faster 

It’s very difficult for companies to get physical networking equipment and personnel into geographies and markets to expand connectivity to new customers and business partners in a timely, secure and reliable manner. This is especially the case with the global COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting supply chain challenges. This is why Virtual Network Functions (VNF) services are growing so rapidly across multiple industries.

Digital businesses are leveraging VNF devices to solve the problem of regional access because they can remotely deploy a VNF device quickly, without having to undertake all that entails a physical deployment. VNF services also give smaller companies a big boost because they allow them to cost-effectively access rich geos and markets they couldn’t otherwise afford to enter.

Trend #2: Digitalization is accelerating and networks need to adapt  

Increasing digitalization means that IT infrastructure and network connections are needed in places where demand is rapidly growing, such as with edge computing where volumes of data are being created and processed, buoyed by an onslaught of IoT devices collecting data and application needs for real-time analytics. 

As a result of the pandemic lock-downs, more companies are deploying online services – telemedicine, unified communications and collaboration (UCC) , and digital payments, requiring greater network bandwidth capacity and distributed network access points.   IT organizations are increasingly turning to SD-WANs, virtual private networks (VPNs), firewalls, and cloud routing virtual devices that can be spun up much quicker – in minutes –  to interconnect with employees, customers and partner ecosystems over high-speed, low-latency virtual connections.  

Trend #3: The expanding edge is putting more pressure on securing the network perimeter 

With increasing numbers of users working remotely and more and more applications moving to the cloud, traffic patterns have changed. Thanks to SD-WAN, most traffic goes directly to the cloud rather than tromboning back to a central data center. But this can introduce security risks with a stronger security stack needed to be deployed and maintained along with SD-WAN. Secure web gateways (SWGs), deployed in many markets, provide a secure solution to ensure that traffic is inspected, and the risk mitigated by various security services. Firms will increasingly want to optimize private connections between SD-WAN gateways and these SWG services, as well as their identity-protection providers.  

It’s also an opportunity to optimize for Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)  ̶  a combination of SD-WAN, secure web gateways , and zero trust. It’s no doubt SASE is getting such great attention because it can protect the huge amounts of remote worker and edge traffic (e.g., IoT, 5G) that go to the cloud. Security organizations can peel off the traffic via a SD-WAN to a secure web gateway before it gets to the cloud.  

Trend #4:  5G and IoT Security Needs to be Top-of-Mind 

The promise of 5G is a totally interconnected world with the number of connected devices and the volume of data they create and share increased significantly. This could give criminals more opportunities to launch attacks by targeting the connectivity itself, as well as the connected devices.

As telecoms begin rolling out their 5G networks across Canada, securing 5G connectivity and the end-to-end IoT ecosystem will take on new urgency in 2021. We expect OEMs and network service providers will start building holistic, end-to-end security into the underlying network infrastructure, as businesses could feel compelled to start following best practices related to device security.

In fact, threat actors may/could focus much of their effort on unprotected IoT devices themselves with specially designed malware. It could/we believe it will increase the number and scale of new IoT botnets. This diffusion of IoT devices could then attract ransomware that could develop specific malware variants to target these systems.  

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