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Ciena 2022 Predictions: The Future of Remote Work

vmblog predictions 2022 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2022.  Read them in this 14th annual series exclusive.

The Future of Remote Work - 5 Predictions for 2022

By Craig Williams, Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Ciena

For the last 18 months, most companies have been faced with the challenge of having to deal with the "new world of work"-or, as some call it, "return to work." What many don't realize is that this new way of working is something we have been living for a very long time, but we're now just refining and accelerating those practices. Businesses have been moving to the cloud for years, and COVID forced the issue. Applications to support a more collaborative and distributed workforce have been used for years, but now they're a vital part of the way we work. The thing that's changed is every company must have a cloud and collaboration strategy-it's not an option. But often these strategies fall short of the new hybrid work anywhere model.

So, what's next? In 2022, companies will need to invest in new technologies that enable colleagues to collaborate more effectively, while becoming more progressive in how they engage their employees to attract new talent. Here are five predictions that companies should consider adopting next year to take their organizations to another level of connected interaction.

AR has its day

Augmented reality (AR) will start to deliver the new office experience, albeit a virtual one. While the pandemic saw employees communicate via video conferencing calls becoming the norm, AR will provide more of an immersive experience. In 2022, companies could start to offer AR software and wearables that, up until recently, had been used by the military, industry conferences, and gaming.

AR software will offer businesses virtual communities where employees can converse with co-workers and attend meetings in a virtual office setting. Like all technological changes, companies will need to offer employees extensive training to show them how to use this technology effectively. The pandemic taught IT leaders that they need to move quickly and adapt, and this means evolving the AR opportunity beyond COVID to close the distance between users.

However, this will be a valuable exercise as AR will allow companies to reduce their carbon footprint and cut real estate costs. HR will also be able to utilize AR in the recruitment process to attract and meet with new talent. AR will create a work environment that encourages working in groups and collaboration, something that some companies have found difficult to deliver during the pandemic.

Cloud or bust

To keep staff connected to the office, companies have been investing in cloud applications that allow remote workers to be productive from their home offices. In a 2021 survey of U.S. business professionals, 65 percent said they consider the cloud to be critical to carrying out their jobs.

Simply put, not having a cloud strategy isn't an option. You'll fall behind the competition. Cloud is now table stakes, and you must be thinking about what it can do beyond collaboration and communication. It's time to look at the cloud for benefits such business process automation, security and disaster recovery, and better insights about your customers and processes via artificial intelligence and machine learning. Businesses will also need to consider multi-cloud and selecting the right type of cloud-be it private, public, or hybrid-for specific applications. As companies evolve, managing multiple cloud instances will be the norm, no different from consumers having choice for their personal cloud preferences like Drive, Box or Dropbox. IT teams will need flexibility and choice, perhaps moving from one platform to another whether it's Azure, AWS, OCI, or something else.  

In 2022, we will see that our familiarity of using different cloud applications will enable us to more rapidly adapt to new technologies. Early adopters of these new applications and features will give companies a good understanding of the business problems that can be addressed using the technologies and are likely to give them a competitive edge.

The traditional WAN is dead

To continue to support remote working, network infrastructure will need to evolve and meet the constant demand from consumers and businesses for new services, applications, and content. People will continue to work where they want, and the corporate office will become just another option-like the home office or even a local coffee shop. Many organizations will need to rethink the role of the network and pivot to meet the needs of the company. Some will no longer need heavy network infrastructure to support hundreds or thousands of workers. Instead, they'll have infrastructures like a local Starbucks-open and secure-supporting fewer workers but more flexibly.

Businesses will need to extend cloud and advanced network capabilities into the homes of their employees. Mesh Wi-Fi networks or even new methods of bringing connectivity to the home will become increasingly important (see my next prediction).

The onus is now on service providers to extend network performance out to the edge of the network-to metro and rural areas-to support this new distributed way of working. Software and automation are going to be crucial here for enabling networks to cost effectively scale to meet the demands of companies outside major towns and cities.

5G will improve home and office connectivity

During 2022, we will see an increase in the number of homes with a 5G connection. 5G fixed wireless will encourage competition for broadband speeds in residential communities. Remote workers need more options and choices at their home office, and reliable 5G can allow them to access the internet throughout the whole house.

With 5G offering an alternative to traditional Wi-Fi and Ethernet, consumers will have plenty of bandwidth to be productive-whether they are on Zoom meetings or collaborating in other ways. The rollout of 5G standalone networks, which will introduce the 5G core for the first time, will see 5G bandwidth increasing and latency reducing even further. It will become a very competitive service to even the best fiber-to-the-home connectivity. Indeed, a recent survey found that 76 percent of U.S. professionals think 5G will help more people access digital content at home.

Consumers will start to use 5G as their primary connection-not just for their mobile phones, but even their home internet. With 5G as the primary connection in the home, IT leaders will have the ability to offer 5G in offices as a backup circuit. So, in 2022, expect the 5G discussion to evolve beyond cellular connectivity to home broadband and its benefit to remote workers as the main connectivity source.

Secure networking 

Traditionally, IT network administrators have focused on things like latency, bandwidth, QoS, and resiliency. However, with the advent of ransomware and breaches, network administrators must rethink the playbook and evolve their approach to security. Crucially, it is important to only allow devices that can be trusted to connect to the network. Conducting regular inventory checks helps to ensure that every device that connects to the network is compliant with the company's security practices and is on the right subnet.

The complexity of this new network environment can be likened to a personal home Wi-Fi network. Consumers today have smart home devices such as thermostats, alarm systems, cameras, ovens, and refrigerators. A corporate network is very similar, but instead of smart home devices, infrastructures include building management systems, displays that have IP addresses, and other IoT devices.

Unfortunately, network administrators often suffer from a lack of visibility across their networks, with insight only into information such as IP and MAC addresses. Having an accurate inventory of everything on the network will allow IT departments to manage it appropriately. Failure to do so will present a weak link in the chain, and that weak link could be enough for a hacker to exploit, leading to further compromise. 

For the past 18 months, companies have been busy putting together their remote work playbook for their IT infrastructure. In 2022, we should be prepared to add to it and grow our remote capabilities as we resume bringing employees together in the workplace.



Craig Williams 

Craig Williams is Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Ciena, where he oversees the company's Information Technology (IT) organization. A transformational technology leader, Williams is responsible for enterprise architecture, information security, governance, applications and solutions delivery, technology-enabled collaboration, and worldwide systems operations. He brings over 25 years of experience spanning broad-based design leadership, implementations, and support of new and emerging technologies in multiple industries.

Published Wednesday, December 08, 2021 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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