In our latest publication, "2020 Internet Performance Report: COVID-19 Impact," we analyzed the health of the Internet between January and July 2020. We interviewed Yogi Chandiramani, VP, Solutions Engineering, EMEA, to get his insights on the impact of the pandemic on work organizations and the next IT challenges. “The digital transformation has accelerated. We are seeing a large adoption of remote working by companies and employees. The pandemic and lockdown have clearly demonstrated that the Internet can hold up, but that it is essential to be ready for the next challenges around the cloud, the CDN and the Internet. End-to-end visibility of the user experience has become essential. With agents in more than 185 cities around the world, ThousandEyes brings relevant intelligence to support digital transformation.”
The coronavirus pandemic has led many companies to profoundly change the working habits of their employees. What have you observed in France, and what has been the impact of these changes on IT operations?
Yogi Chandiramani: The lockdown has fundamentally changed our work environment. Until now, applications were accessed from the office, with high-performance, high-quality connectivity and data centers. To ensure business continuity, employees had to use their home broadband. Some had to share this access with their children, who were following their classes remotely thanks to tools made available by the French Department of Education and Universities or who were just having fun. These unprecedented changes challenged the distribution of traffic on the Internet, which was largely supported by the public networks. Overall, we have observed an increase of more than 60% in outages from February to March 2020, with an increase of up to 15 minutes, compared to an average of one minute before the pandemic. Generally speaking, the Internet has held up well in France thanks to major infrastructure investments made in recent years.
During the lockdown, in Europe, we have observed network disruptions during office hours. Do you think companies were prepared for this, and how did they react?
Yogi Chandiramani: Nobody was prepared for the pandemic. Overnight, companies had to adapt, with virtually no visibility of a way out of the crisis. Some provided their employees with laptops (HP sales grew by 17%) and implemented the necessary connectivity for quick access to company resources. Several companies have extended their IT support to employees’ homes and deployed Wi-Fi and employee network monitoring tools.
Working from home is setting up in France. Do you think this will change the role of digital platforms and experiences in the coming months/years?
Yogi Chandiramani: The lockdown has forced us to adapt and learn to work remotely. The Internet and digital platforms have allowed companies to be resilient and a source of value. Companies that have based their business models on digital platforms have done very well. The pandemic will accelerate digital transformation. Companies have moved fast to invite employees back to the office, with the option of working remotely one to two days a week. There is a strong trend towards returning to the office: more than 55% of French people no longer work remotely. In the French culture, the human side and the conviviality of the office are keys: morning coffee, lunch with colleagues, etc. The "coffee corner" is an important place to socialize in French companies. 83% of people from Ile-de-France have returned to the office compared to only 32% of Londoners. In the Anglo-Saxon countries, working remotely has been the norm for several years, and all the required tools are in place to ensure employee productivity, whatever is the workplace. Obviously, remote working can’t be generalized to all sectors: it is not possible to "bring" the factory to the employee, for example; the employee must go to the production site.
What are the biggest challenges for the IT architecture, both in the short and long term?
Yogi Chandiramani: Today, the corporate network extends to the employee's home. This new situation requires redesigning how to detect issues. Until now, we had to identify whether an outage was caused by the company network or the data center. Today, with digital transformation and remote working, in order to have complete visibility, it is also necessary to observe the cloud and the workstation. Some of our customers have made this choice. They have equipped their laptops with ThousandEyes Endpoint Agent to bring complete visibility into their employees’ networks and to detect issues impacting business application continuity.
The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation. What is the best way to revamp these models to reach the full potential of technology?
Yogi Chandiramani: Cloud-based applications were designed for direct access from the Internet. Microsoft, for example, advises to connect Office 365 applications without going over a WAN, but directly from the Internet. Several companies have changed their routing rules: all the traffic no longer goes through the corporate VPN, and collaboration applications use direct access. With connectivity from home broadband, this architecture is becoming the next norm. But you need to be able to diagnose connectivity to the cloud application from end-to-end.
With this in mind, what will be the next responsibilities and priorities of the IT teams?
Yogi Chandiramani: The next challenges are to put in place a real IT strategy for remote workers and to integrate the employees' personal network into it. To do this, we need to extend the corporate network to the employee's home and make the necessary investments. It is at this price that we will find, as in the office, a high-performance Wi-Fi access point, an automatic VPN access with an SD-WAN solution, and a security level identical to the corporate network. Nobody knows when the pandemic will end... Several companies have already started to deploy this strategy.
In these uncertain times, how can we consolidate our IT architectures for our customers, employees and applications?
Yogi Chandiramani: This crisis has taught us that we need to organize ourselves to ensure business continuity. The ideal checklist covers four key points:
- Be prepared for service interruptions and have a connectivity contingency plan
- Analyze dependencies with providers, such as ISPs and cloud service providers
- Collaborate with partners and suppliers to resolve service losses as efficiently as possible, with data covering the different layers from application to network
- Identify the differences in the services provided in the different geographical areas you operate