As the global pandemic continues to rage, and people continue to work remotely, companies carry on shoring up their IT infrastructure to support their remote workforces. To enable this, many are looking to SD-WAN, SD-networks, and SASE. While all eyes are on the immediate needs of today's environment, some companies are also preparing their infrastructure to support autonomous networks.

With second and third waves of the pandemic hitting regions worldwide, virtual meetings, cloud applications, and digital transactions are looking more like a permeant reality than a temporary fix. SD-WAN and SASE are now critical tools IT departments deploy to meet the needs of the "new normal" in business operations. With more employees working from home, security, efficiency, and versatility are being tested. Luckily, SASE solutions are on hand to ensure secure connectivity for employees, wherever they may be. Meanwhile, SD-WAN is an indispensable tool in terms of application awareness, performance optimization, as well as wide-ranging security for every home office.

Businesses are investing resources and capital into IT infrastructure enhancements and future-proof them with SD-WAN and SASE. One of the areas they are future-proofing their infrastructure against, knowingly or inadvertently, is the autonomous network. To some, autonomous networks might seem like a far-off future at least a decade away.  However, it is estimated that a sizable portion of all networks will be autonomous by the middle of this decade, and COVID-19 has played a significant role in speeding this timeline up.   

For IT departments in the know, they are now killing two birds with one stone. With SD-WAN, SASE, and AI in hand, their short-term and long-term goals are being met, allowing them to maximize their return-on-investment. As they meet today's immediate needs, they are also building up to meet their long-term objectives of autonomous networks. The autonomous networks they envision are truly self-driving, intelligent and free-up their human operators to focus on long-term goals and strategic initiatives.  

The autonomous network's key driver is AI-based analytics engine, AI for IT operations (AIOps) technologies. As an example, machine learning can utilize analytics to optimize bandwidth usage by predicting usage trends and behaviors. But for this to be a possibility, networks need to be ready and prepared. AI applications require uninterrupted access to a network's data and control systems to collect and push information through an analytics engine. The more simple the connection between the network and the AI engine, the more intelligent and useful the autonomous network will be.

With SD-WAN, SD-networks, and SASE, IT departments are building transparent software-defined architecture that is best prepared for the future. SD-WAN and SASE are the bedrock of an autonomous network as they are a software-defined solution with integrated security mechanisms. What's more, their centralized nature allows AI applications to access real-time data with ease and make adjustments, all in one place. Also, they help with quick-deploy cloud security and micro-segmentation capabilities.

As you focus on upgrading your IT infrastructure to meet the realities of the "new normal," be sure to look a little further ahead and realize what SD-WAN, SD-networks, and SASE have in store for your organization's future. Because the future beyond our COVID-ravaged world might be closer than you think.