Author: John Marinucci

With the rapid switch to work from home in 2020, network transformation has gone from being an IT project to a critical business decision.

In the same way, digital transformation shaped which applications we now use daily, many businesses are looking to transform their networks to best serve changing business goals and work locations.

As we head into 2023, here’s what you should watch for when it comes to network transformation trends.  


#1. Remote Work is Shaking up Reliance on WAN 

Businesses have relied on Wide Area Networks (WAN) for years. A WAN is a large computer network that connects groups of computers over large distances. They’re typically used by companies with multiple offices or locations to connect Local Area Networks (LANs) together using technology such as VPNs, MPLS, or more traditional private line network connections.

With the shift to remote work, companies have been forced to reevaluate their reliance on WAN.

While WAN is great for facilitating communication between different offices, remote work has reduced the use of those offices and scattered workers to different locations. 

Plus, applications that are accessed through the cloud cannot be accessed in a traditional WAN setup because a WAN is a closed, private system. SD-WAN architecture can be built to sidestep these issues. Still, as more and more applications are built and accessed on the cloud, many businesses are considering doing away with WAN altogether.  

Instead of building a WAN network, businesses have found success using Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) which reduces the need to orchestrate software access solutions and is purpose-built for remote work.  

Every network vendor has unique capabilities and approaches to network design. As businesses start to consider abandoning the traditional WAN as part of their network transformation plan, it’s critical for vendors to respond by aligning to the unique needs of each business.   

Ultimately, network transformation solutions need to address access controls at a user and application level, all while being simple to orchestrate and manage.

While we don’t know the magic solution yet, one thing is clear — traditional WANs don’t get the job done anymore. Expect more organizations to re-evaluate their network strategy in the coming year.


#2. Transforming SD-WAN for 2023 

SD-WAN, which stands for Software Defined Wide Area Network, is a virtual WAN architecture that enables organizations to combine services such as MPLS and broadband to connect users to applications securely.  

SD-WAN architecture came about as a way to allow workers to access applications within the WAN. Today’s SD-WAN solutions can’t be ad-hoc, simple MPLS.  

SD-WAN design is now becoming a table-stakes discussion, and we’ll see more of these conversations happening at the business level in 2023. Unlike previous architecture, today’s SD-WAN needs to be designed around network security, remote access, and the cloud, so it has a greater impact across the organization.  

In particular, SD-WAN needs to address how SaaS and real-time applications can be easily accessed and deliver a common user experience, regardless of how a user enters the network.  

Businesses that are including SD-WAN in their network transformation plans will be looking to integrate additional modular components like Security Service Edge (SSE) and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) that facilitate smooth remote work and can grow with the business.  


#3. Network Transformation and Security Are Becoming the Same Conversation 

Network transformation and cybersecurity have traditionally been separate conversations, but that’s changing for 2023 and beyond.  

With a more distributed workforce and increased stress on the IT staff, companies are considering a more unified approach to network transformation and security as part of a broader focus on reducing overall operating expenses.

Interestingly, Gartner estimates that global IT spending will jump by 5.1% in 2023. However, research from Bain and Co points to the fact that spending is increasingly being focused on cost management.   Unified approaches to network and security will be a beneficiary of this focus. 


#4. Overall Consolidation and Cost Reduction are Key 

Security isn’t the only sector that businesses are looking to unify with network transformation. There’s a lot more dialogue about project sprawl, and how network transformation decisions can actually address other projects, such as supply chain.  

Now more than ever, there are multiple opportunities to collapse many discreet technologies such as SD-WAN, VPN/SDP/ZTNA , Firewall/UTM as well as things like CASB, DLP, SSL Decryption, anti-malware, into a unified platform.

By unifying these technologies, organizations require less specific technical disciplines from IT staff, reduced administration points, fewer supply chain issues, and, critically — less capital spending.

Unified systems also allow for faster deployment of new technologies, enabling the business to scale and pivot more easily. Unified solutions also provide a consistent user experience that demands little technical expertise.  

Network transformation is a key part of not only IT conversations, but business conversations. Networks affect every other part of the IT equation, from security to spending. As more businesses pivot to hybrid and remote work, how workers access the network becomes a bigger conversation. 

Do you want to take the next step in your network transformation journey? Bridgepointe works with you to design network transformation solutions that reduce operating costs and drive efficiency. Talk to an expert today.