• Performance and reliability remain as key challenges for ASEAN enterprises largely due to carriers’ network limitations.
• Network management and security become crucial driven by enterprises’ rapid cloud adoption during the pandemic.
GlobalData interviewed 158 ASEAN decision makers earlier this year to further understand their challenges with current services and buying trends for new solutions. One of the topics is challenges in current network services. From the 12 challenges given, performance and reliability came as the top with 32% of enterprises rated it as a severe or major challenge. This is followed by network management 30%, security 27%, while management across cloud and unclear benefits rounded up the top five with 26% each.
Figure 1: Challenges with Network Services in ASEAN, 2021
1. Performance and reliability
Performance and reliability have been a key challenge in network services and appeared the top again in 2021. While carriers are aggressively expanding their fiber and 5G coverage, high-speed network is still somewhat limited in the region. It is not uncommon for enterprises to have less than 10Mbps WAN services due to network limitation. Furthermore, network outage is also a common occurrence due to fiber cuts, hardware issues and cybersecurity attacks. As more workloads are digitalized and moved to cloud, network services have become crucial enabler in business operations today. Service disruption is compensated by SLAs, but it often has bigger impact on organizations, such as losses in internal productivity, drops in sales, and additional contact center costs due to increasing complaints. While network redundancy can be somewhat expensive, enterprises are increasingly considering SD-WAN for better performance through multiple access to underlay networks. Furthermore, 5G standalone combined with network slicing can offer dedicated high bandwidth as a back-up or even primary connectivity.
2. Network management
Network management (e.g., WAN optimization, bandwidth on-demand, network visibility services, branch networking) and the management across different cloud environments go hand-in-hand. They were also the second and the fourth challenges respectively. Network management has become increasingly important driven by wider adoption of business applications as well as data migration to third-party infrastructure such as colocation and private and public cloud. The SDN and NFV technologies such as SD-WAN, SD-Branch, SD-LAN, and SD-Interconnect were developed to address this issue and are getting traction in the market. SD-WAN offers application-aware network solutions through efficient bandwidth management based on different services across multiple underlay networks. The technology also offers deeper visibility (e.g., at L7), and more efficient troubleshooting through proactive monitoring. Further, SD-WAN offers quicker provisioning, usually in hours or days, compared to legacy technologies that need weeks or months. SD-Interconnect can be positioned as cloud-aware network services through bandwidth agility across different cloud environments. However, the services are still limited in the region. Most providers offer limited deployment options (usually Meraki-based SD-WAN). Some ASEAN carriers are still holding back their SD-WAN initiatives due to concerns with service cannibalization of their legacy connectivity services such as MPLS and Ethernet.
3. Network security
Network security has been an endless challenge, but the remote working trends during lockdowns has dramatically changed requirements. A huge increase in cybersecurity attacks were reported in the last 18 months. Remote endpoints have been the main target due to the use of unsecured networks and personal devices. Many enterprises also had weak business security policy for remote working, such as lack of endpoint protections and multi-factor authentications. Service providers are increasingly integrating network solutions with security features. Besides virtual firewall, providers are bundling edge security to offer zero-touch architecture, where a user is authorized based on network and IP address, but also devices, user information, and other context such as application, time, and location.
ASEAN providers could consider enhancing their SD-WAN capabilities address performance, management, and security challenges. These are the proven benefits of SD-WAN with various successful deployments by providers in mature markets. Furthermore, they could expand the portfolio and offer multiple options with multi-vendor approach to address wider market segments (e.g., SMEs, large enterprises, and MNCs). As hybrid working will stay in the foreseeable future, ASEAN providers could also consider integrating security capabilities with network services, to address the growing threats in remote working.