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Resilience helps us to stay strong

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Change and chaos are ever present in the world we live in. Sometimes we can see difficulties approaching and that gives us time to prepare. At other times, the shifts are unforeseen and disruptive. Being adaptable is what enables us to survive and this is true for both people and businesses as well. Even if you have the strongest product offering and the smartest or most hardworking people, there is still no guarantee that you will endure challenges. It is the businesses and people that are built resilient with the ability to adapt to changing environments that survive and often come out of adversity stronger than before.

Advancements in digital products and services serve as connecting points between companies and consumers, employers and staff, and families and friends around the world. It is crucial that this infrastructure remains elastic, flexible, and intelligent. The sudden changes we’ve all experienced in the last few weeks have brought into stark relief the importance of applications and networks to both economic and human resilience. The rapid, global shift to remote work, along with surges in online learning, gaming, and video streaming, is generating record-level internet traffic and congestion. BT Group recently reported that daytime traffic increased by as much as 60 per cent and a report this week from Havas Media Group found that 59 per cent of people are using video streaming platforms more than they did prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. This is significant considering that video streaming was already on the rise and predicted by Cisco to contribute up to 82 per cent of total internet traffic by 2022. This crisis is pushing boundaries and testing network resilience, and yet the bar for user experience and application performance remains high.

Assessing internet infrastructure

With businesses so reliant on consistent connectivity and performance to ensure their own systems and applications remain functional, many are assessing their approach to internet infrastructure not just for their current needs, but to ensure they are ready for any future challenges. Resilience must be at the heart of any decisions they make, whether that’s to build new infrastructure or reinforce existing networks and applications and they must keep ahead of new innovations in order to stay competitive.

Modern application infrastructure is dynamic, distributed and increasingly complex. And at the centre of it all, we find technologies that have existed for decades—DNS, DHCP and IP address management (DDI). They are still around because they form the basis of the internet, but thanks to the constant and often inspired innovation of experts in the field, innovations have enabled these technologies to meet -- and in many cases exceed -- modern infrastructure demands. By creating solutions that are application-centric and data-driven, new solutions have become critical tools that bring automation, velocity, security, and resilience to modern application development, delivery, and access.

Steering internet traffic

During the current crisis one unsung technology hero is internet traffic management. This is used to steer collaboration platforms, streaming services and the content developed by media companies. Even in normal times, internet congestion gives rise to many challenges, not least the risk of latency, which can result in delays to the transmission of data, or even take services offline. To guard against this and give content providers unprecedented control to route around problems while keeping costs in check, there is an increasingly heavy reliance on traffic management platforms. Some providers have adopted multi-CDN strategies with distributed cloud and edge network architecture that is helping to significantly reduce latency by bringing content and processing closer to users. The next step in this evolution is to automate content delivery, and again traffic management can help with this, assisting DevOps and NetOps teams to be efficient and reduce manual errors ensuring that streamed content is delivered with the best performance possible.

Stress on VPNs

Another area where the need for automation, scalability and flexibility is particularly evident is in the increased usage of virtual private networks (VPNs). The move to universal remote work puts enormous stress on systems that were originally designed to support just 5 to 10 per cent of a business’s workforce, yet now must provide remote access for millions of employees worldwide all at the same time. With every indication that, following the lockdown, employees will want to continue working remotely at least some of the time, managed DNS, which is designed to achieve maximum reliability and performance for websites, is coming into its own. When used to direct VPN users, managed DNS vastly improves the experience for remote employees by allowing network teams to easily configure powerful traffic shaping algorithms based on location, resource availability, number of existing sessions, and a dozen other variables. It works by dynamically steering remote employees to the nearest, healthy VPN endpoints that have the most capacity. Instead of being thrown off just as they try to access or upload an important document, employees seamlessly connect—and stay connected, which is a crucial factor for business resilience.

It is incumbent on those of us who work in network IT to collaborate with our customers and partners to build the resilient technology infrastructure upon which the world now relies. But as we build, it is also important to recognise and honour the ways businesses and communities all around the world are demonstrating resilience in recent weeks. We should share these examples with our families and friends as well as those we work with because they demonstrate the value of human and technological resilience to persevering through this challenging time, and serve as inspiring indicators of how we can overcome adversity, learn from it and perhaps come out stronger..

Mark Fieldhouse, General Manager EMEA, NS1 (opens in new tab)

Mark Fieldhouse is General Manager EMEA at NS1, a leader in next generation DNS and application traffic management solutions. He is responsible for NS1’s growth in the region.