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Dell'Oro Group: New Campus Network Trends in the Post-Pandemic Era

Dell'Oro Group Founder & CEO Tam Dell'Oro discusses current and future trends of digitalization and network tech.


The pandemic-driven acceleration in enterprise digitalization and increased use of technologies like cloud, IoT, and AI has had a major impact on campus networks. Dell'Oro Group Founder and CEO Tam Dell'Oro sat down with Jason Ding, Marketing Director of Huawei's Campus Network Domain, to talk about current and future campus network trends and technologies. They also discussed the dramatic changes in enterprise offices, production, and infrastructure that we’re seeing in the post-pandemic era, as well as new ways to accelerate enterprise digital transformation.

Dell'Oro Group is a leading market analysis and research firm covering telecommunications, enterprise networks, data center IT infrastructure, servers, and storage systems. It also provides detailed analyses of data center cloud providers. 

The company’s founder and CEO Tam Dell'Oro has been the lead analyst on the Wireless LAN research program since January 2017.

The Future of Work

Jason Ding: Some enterprises are choosing to have their employees work from home permanently, some want them to return to the office, and other companies prefer a mix of the two. Are you seeing these trends happening globally and how will it change campus infrastructure?

Tam Dell’Oro: Yes, we’re definitely seeing change in the works. Many systems integrators and some IT managers I've interviewed have indicated that they’re looking to downsize their office space, as more employees are working remotely at least part of the time. What may unfold after the pandemic is a higher percentage of people who will be working remotely a couple of days a week.

People still need to come together for innovation and collaboration. What this means is that the office network will likely be less wired with assigned workstations, and more wireless where there'll be a docking station and an electric charger for a cell phone, and transient people coming through using the same desk. What that also means is conference rooms having video conferencing capabilities and more sensors signaling when heating or lighting is needed — essentially buildings will become more intelligent. We expect real estate agencies to use technology to increase the attractiveness of their buildings, because more commercial real estate may become available. There will be more applications where people can reserve rooms remotely, and see what services are available in the vicinity and how to locate them, for example, getting meals or cleaning clothes. So, we’ll see quite a significant change unfolding with the buildings and the workplace.

Ding: Yes, exactly. That’s exactly the transformation we’re seeing in different types of campuses or different types of the buildings. It’s not just wired to connect people and connect devices, but also wireless as the first strategy to enable all digital services and build smart buildings.

The Future of Infrastructure

Ding: Wi-Fi 6 is the latest Wi-Fi standard and it brings better bandwidth, a better experience for roaming and latency, and better interference suppression. When we need to build a smart building or smart infrastructures, what are the procurement factors for Wi-Fi infrastructure itself? And what are the other procurement factors that enterprises need to consider as they build fully wireless connectivity for a better user experience across their campus and across their infrastructures. Finally, what are some of the technologies that customers need to think about when they're constructing or planning new infrastructures in 2021?

Dell’Oro: What we’re seeing is predictive analytics. We’re seeing a higher demand for applications that are going to run over these Wi-Fi networks that previously weren’t a consideration — like remote troubleshooting, sensing who the users are that are coming into rooms, and dealing with multiple different applications that those users might need; like dealing with issues like healthcare, distancing, and perhaps temperature gauging. And like location tracing — if someone has been sick, who else have they been in contact with? So, it's not just bandwidth; it’s a step-up in the intelligence of the network.

We also saw that cloud-managed wireless LAN sales shot up in the second quarter and third quarter of 2020. Demand leveled off a little in the fourth quarter, but there's always seasonality. People definitely want to deploy technologies where they can do more network management remotely and troubleshooting remotely. There is definitely more demand for remote capabilities.

campus network

Ding: The infrastructures that enterprises own today are global. You may have your factory in Shanghai. You may have your R&D center in Hong Kong or in Singapore. You have to manage your global infrastructures in a single place to help easily and quickly deploy your digital services. So, there's another trend where applications are going to cloud. We're seeing more enterprises using cloud-based SaaS applications for their office work, for their marketing, for their sales, and even for their production operations. With greater cloudification, do you see the increased adoption of SD-WAN technology within campus networks? What do you predict for 2021?

Dell’Oro: We've definitely seen an uptake of SD-WAN and cloud management. SD-WAN has incorporated much more security, with more business-critical applications and people remotely trying to connect. The importance of security has shot up.

Ding: Yeah, when we have critical meetings with different locations globally, everyone within the campus and customers or partners must all have the same experience, for example, zero jitter and no interruptions. People may not be able to travel today, but they want to have the same experience virtually as they do with in-person meetings. That's the requirement for SD-WAN and also for the Wi-Fi network. Within the campus, we need Wi-Fi to enable or assure experience. Outside the campus, we need to have SD-WAN at the other end of the infrastructure to enable experience for cloud and public cloud services.

The Future of Production

Ding: We talked a lot about the office environment and about how infrastructure enables smart work. What about production? We're seeing that IP technology, the wireless LAN, the SD-WAN, and also SDN and AI technology, is starting to be used in various industries, like healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and education. Do you see any use cases in any of these sectors? How are they using the latest technology to enable digital applications or digital services?

Dell’Oro: Absolutely. The pandemic has been a trigger. And the pandemic has escalated the awareness of the governments of many different countries that businesses, schools, and cities need to advance and enable their people, their residents, and their constituents. We've seen a remarkable increase in Wi-Fi in the second half of 2020, particularly from the education sector, mostly lower education kindergarten through 12th grade, followed by the government sector. The next thing we see advancing is the manufacturing sector. These vertical industries have embraced Wi-Fi technology the fastest. Note that the service provider sector has grown in strength from the increase of work-from-home managed services.

campus network

Significant funding has flowed into schools, into city townships, just to enable communications. Local politicians have been getting involved with network deployment, both long-haul and Local Area Networks, to enable Internet connectivity to the home for both education and work performance. That means they're setting up Wi-Fi in buildings, in libraries, or in parking lots. Some governments have been advancing manufacturing to attract business globally, using sensors to read license plates or bar codes so that trucks or machines can be directed without a human. Other governments have been advancing technology at universities to attract students and be ranked among the world’s leading universities in research and technology.

Ding: Yes, within education, teachers are teaching in front of the camera and students are staying in their dorms. There is demand in our buildings and dormitories for better Wi-Fi connectivity to enable a better bandwidth and allow multiple users to connect to the infrastructure simultaneously and stably, thereby delivering better education experiences.

In agriculture, we're seeing that digital technologies like Wi-Fi and IoT are used to monitor pigs, and make rearing pigs smarter, for example, so we can know their temperatures, the food they eat, monitor when they walk, and make sure they aren't sick. Those are the examples of Wi-Fi, IoT, and campus technologies that not only exist in office environments, but are also starting to emerge in various sectors. The post-pandemic era is activating those new use cases and new applications in those spaces.

It is foreseeable that we will have better network and service experiences not only in offices, but also in homes, public spaces, and in production spaces. Governments will provide better and more convenient public services, enterprise employees will work anytime, anywhere, and students will learn and communicate at any time, in any location. One of key enablers for this better world will be the future-proof campus network.