A10 Networks published international research revealing the challenges and priorities of communication service providers as they respond to the ongoing impact of COVID-19.
The study was undertaken by independent research organization, Opinion Matters, among 1,251 senior IT professionals from a range of communication service providers in UK, France, Germany, Middle East and India.
It found that, nearly all (99%) of service providers surveyed had experienced an increase in demand as a result of COVID-19. 67% of service providers surveyed believe their customers will continue to operate with employees working from home to some extent post-pandemic. As a result, they anticipate permanent changes to customer demand and use patterns, and they are seeing changes to procurement strategies. They are also facing intensifying security threats and have changed their investment priorities as a result.
Key findings on the direct impact and response to COVID-19:
The overnight pivot to home working caused by the pandemic has had an immediate effect on demand and distribution:
- 99% of respondents experienced an increase in demand as a result of COVID-19, with an average increase of 55%
- 99% said the pandemic accelerated their transition to a more distributed network
- 55% scaled up infrastructure across the network
- 54% scaled up in specific high-demand locations
- 47% invested more heavily in security technologies
- 32% increased headcount to deal with requirements.
Commenting on the direct impact of COVID-19, Anthony Webb, EMEA Vice President at A10 Networks said, “The switch to working from home caused an unprecedented shift in customer needs and a fundamental change in both geographic and temporal use patterns, as home workers adapted working hours to combine jobs with home-schooling and caring duties. At the same time, it represented a rapid expansion of the attack surface, leaving providers battling on two fronts: how to meet demand, and how to scale-up safely. Our research shows providers had a dual focus on scale and security, which is set to continue as they make strategic adjustments to the changed landscape and accelerate their transition to the more distributed network.”
Sanjai Gangadharan, Regional Director, SAARC, A10 Networks, said, “The digital revolution is upon us, driving telecommunications companies to rethink their business models. The pandemic has been a game changer as far as enterprise technology adoption is concerned. According to A10 Network’s International Service Provider Research, 47% of Indian communication service providers have accelerated transition to a more distributed network. This shift has changed customer behavior significantly, as India scored the highest (69%) for experiencing increased expectation from customers ‘around security’, this has also led to an increased demand by the customers for online platforms by 60%, and has amplified customer’s concerns around business continuity and resilience by 54%. Given the considerable shift in consumption demands; 62% of Indian enterprises have accelerated investment plans in security and 70% of them plan to accelerate investment in networks. As organizations look to continue to restructure their businesses following the pandemic, there is a heightened demand to increased investment in public cloud providers by 39%, while 64% are looking at revising employee cybersecurity training programme to reflect the hybrid working environment in their organizations.”
Customer procurement strategies and concerns have changed – the shift to cloud accelerates
As customers have adapted to an altered digital environment, their requirements of communication service providers are changing, with more focus on security, continuity and cloud adoption:
- 56% say customer demand for online platforms such as customer service portals has increased
- 52% say customers are now more concerned about business continuity and resilience
- 44% say customer expectations about security from network service providers has risen
- 58% have seen enterprise customers splitting workloads between traditional telcos and non-telco cloud platform providers to minimise risk to service availability
- 50% have seen enterprise customers expand telco RFPs to add a mix of non-telco providers
Commenting on these findings, Webb added: “Customers are on high alert to the threat of service disruption and are demanding higher security and business continuity standards as a result. They are also being proactive about reducing dependence on individual providers by splitting workloads. The fact they are including non-telco providers in procurement strategies shows that they are planning this approach over the long term.”
Investment plans and priorities
The effect of the pandemic and changing customer priorities has altered communication service providers’ capital investment plans:
- 52% plan to increase investment in security
- 50% are reducing investment in their own networks and increasing use of public cloud providers
- 48% say upgrading firewalls and other security appliances to combat new threats is their highest priority security investment to 2022.
- 45% say DDoS mitigation across network infrastructure is a top priority, while 43% are prioritising DDoS protection as a service for enterprise customers.
Webb concluded: “Communication service providers are reacting astutely to growing customer focus on security and resilience by ramping up investment to protect those areas that have been exposed by the expanded attack surface. Maximum uptime and data protection are paramount for organizations operating in the remote work environment and investment in these areas will pay dividends for providers facing increasing competition from non-telco operators.”
COVID-19 has prompted a resurgence in DDoS attacks targeting digital services. A10 Networks’ most recent State of DDoS Weapons report tracked 12.5million DDoS weapons in the second half of 2020.