4 impactful connectivity trends that are shaping our future

By Francis Wainaina

Imagine a future where people, objects, and machines are completely connected, where information flows easily and automatically, and can be accessed and exchanged from any location, at any time, across multiple devices and interfaces. This may sound like a distant, unattainable future, but various connectivity technologies are moving us towards it faster than we think. Let’s dive into some of the global connectivity trends and developments that are supporting a more connected world, and consider what businesses need to know to prepare themselves for it.

  1. Optical networks will power sustainable communications

Climate change has become one of the most pressing challenges our world faces today, but disruptive technologies offer us a unique opportunity to support sustainable growth and reduce our impact on the environment. Optical networking, which creates communication systems that use light signals rather than electronic ones, is one of these disruptive technologies.

The collective energy consumption of IT equipment and networks has a significant impact on our environment because electronic signals are power hungry. Optical (or all-photonics) networking involves a combination of optical and electronic cabling that allows large volumes of traffic to be transmitted at high speeds with a hundredfold improvement in power consumption.

Like SEACOM’s undersea fibre-optic cable that spans 17,000km along the Eastern and Southern coasts of Africa, optical communications can transmit information across astounding distances in a fraction of a second – which is what connects Africa with the rest of the world today. In the future, we are likely to see more networks use this transformative technology to power the next generation of sustainable communications.

  1. Quantum and edge computing

We are at the dawn of a new era of computing, with two paradigms leading towards improved computing power and reduced processing latency: quantum and edge computing. Quantum computers use subatomic particles to perform calculations that could take traditional computers thousands of years to compute. Edge computing enables more processing to take place at or near the source of data.

Quantum computers require special algorithms to operate, and they have the potential to revolutionise research in physics, chemistry, cybersecurity, finance, supply chain management, biology, and machine learning. IBM’s latest quantum computer in Germany, currently the largest in Europe, has also been made accessible via a cloud platform to give researchers, university students, and businesses access to a programmable interface and use the quantum computer from anywhere in the world.

Edge computing is even closer to becoming mainstream than quantum computing. Since much of today’s computing happens in the cloud, this causes a delay when information is sent over longer distances. Edge computing will become increasingly important to improve processing speeds for real-time applications and AI that exist at the edge first and then transfer data to the cloud. With a projected 25 billion IoT devices across the globe by 2030, edge computing will have a critical role to play in more efficiently handling the enormous amounts of data being generated.

  1. Cloud is becoming a business necessity

The pandemic has proven that businesses need to be able to use private and public clouds to respond to changing business requirements. Gartner forecasts worldwide end-user public cloud spending to grow by 23% in 2021, and as more workloads move to a combination of cloud environments, cloud adoption is sure to continue accelerating.

Private and public clouds offer businesses agile and responsive IT infrastructure that increases business value and decreases time-to-market. The cloud enables remote collaboration between employees, cost-savings when it comes to on-premise IT equipment and software upgrades, improved scalability and application performance, as well as increased network security.

The cloud has undoubtedly reshaped the future of business, which also necessitates enhanced connectivity. More cloud use means more bandwidth and network demands, which require a more robust connectivity backbone to allow businesses to operate and scale effectively. Businesses should find a partner that understands the holistic ecosystem of connected technologies if they wish to transform successfully.

  1. More businesses will prioritise cybersecurity

As more businesses are going digital, they also open themselves up to more potential vulnerabilities. Organisations must recognise cybersecurity as a vital business consideration, and those that lack the necessary IT expertise to adequately protect themselves will have to engage with specialist managed security service providers.

Organisations are more distributed since the remote migration of workforces, which gives cybercriminals a much larger attack surface on unprotected at-home networks and computers. To protect their internal operations and employees, businesses need to embed security into every aspect of their network – rather than add it as an afterthought.

The concept of the secure access service edge (SASE) is becoming mainstream, and it delivers wide-area networking and security as a cloud service directly to the end user rather than the data centre. Software-defined networking (SDN) lies at the heart of this paradigm shift. It enables IT managers to control almost every aspect of their network security using advanced software.

Zero-trust networks will also become an increasingly necessary approach to network security, since perimeter-focused security is no longer viable in remote environments. As distributed applications and cloud-based security becomes more complex, organisations must be prepared to deal with this complexity. If they cannot, they will either be unable to digitally transform, or worse, have their digital operations compromised.

A connected future

The possibilities of a more connected, technologically driven world are limitless. The pace of innovation is accelerating and pushing us closer to a futuristic world we would never have imagined just a few years ago. Future-facing businesses that wish to capitalise on these advances will need to prepare themselves for rapid and continuous digital transformation. They will also need to make sure they have the right partner in technology to walk with them on this exciting journey.

(Francis Wainaina, Senior Product Manager at SEACOM East Africa).

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