Building the Network for a Modern Workforce

Building the Network for a Modern Workforce

Helen Yu 06/06/2024
Building the Network for a Modern Workforce

In 2017, I approached one of the world’s tallest mountains. Mount Everest was a beast to climb.

The memory reminds me of a formidable challenge faced by businesses of all sizes these days: readying the company’s network for the modern workforce.

You can buy all the climbing gear you want; that does not ensure you will scale a mountain successfully. Similarly, buying a technology solution is not the same as deploying it. This is where partnerships make things possible.

On Mount Everest, I was grateful to have Sherpa Hassan by my side. He helped me navigate through narrow dirt roads, steep cliffs, and subzero temperatures. We were partners who believed that we could achieve our goal of reaching the 17,000-foot-high base camp, and we did. Together.

When it comes to network infrastructure, I cannot think of two companies that work together as gracefully as AT&T and Cisco . They share a storied 20-year relationship. AT&T provides connectivity to 100 million families, while Cisco, a global technology leader in secure solutions, has 2.5 million business customers. Today, they’re building a future-fit network with a full stack of managed services that simplify a customer’s connectivity and infrastructure.

Freedom for a Remote, On-the-Go Workforce

Like Sherpa Hassan’s experience helped me navigate the climb, deep network expertise makes deployment much easier. That’s why I’m very excited about the announcement of SD-WAN (Software Defined Wide Area Network) from Cisco and AT&T Cloud Voice with Webex Go. We can now take connectivity and conferencing on the road. One word: freedom.

Let’s unpack the solution from the top, starting with SD-WAN.

The challenge for many businesses is routing. Whether in a cloud, private, or on-premises environment, Cisco and AT&T are building a more simplified, flexible network infrastructure. SD-WAN from Cisco is a managed wrapper around servers and networks for more intelligent, more secure routing of network traffic. It supports AT&T and third-party connectivity, including wired and wireless.

AT&T Cloud Voice uses open-source software with AIC/AEC architecture. This means it supports virtually any hardware and software, whether open source, standard, or solution, putting the right workloads in the right clouds. AT&T networks connect data centers, cloud, and employee locations. It’s the backbone that gives the network improved agility and adaptability to business market changes.

Lastly, Webex is Cisco’s conferencing solution. If you’ve ever been “frozen” on screen during a virtual meeting, had an unsavory “guest” pop in, or lost connection right at a critical moment in a meeting (like I have), you know the potential failings of many conferencing solutions. Webex is one of the most secure, consistent, and reliable options on the market. It keeps your data safe by using encrypted channels. The “Go” part is new: Webex Go uses mobile phone technology.

Who will use this besides road warriors like me? Well, any business that needs a future-ready network designed for a mobile workforce.

These include manufacturing, utilities or oil and gas companies with remote locations; small business owners who want an affordable and bundled solution versus cobbling together a multitude of apps, middle market companies and large enterprises with hybrid or remote workforce environments, and multi-location government offices.

With Cisco and AT&T, it’s almost like a board of advisors for your network – from strategy to rapid network deployment and automated provisioning.

Three Ways to Connect

Here’s what I find so fascinating: the ability to get things done does not depend on where you are and how you are connected.

Having 5G, broadband and SD-WAN connectivity provides convenience. I can work, move, and take my meetings with confidence. I won’t miss something because I’m traveling or working remotely. I’m not tied down. SD-WAN becomes a fully managed connectivity solution with security and analytics. You can make real-time decisions faster. You can connect any device in their multi-cloud environment. Large enterprises even have the ability to embed AT&T wireless connectivity in Cisco devices, enabling zero touch provisioning. Currently, Cisco and AT&T have end-to-end deployments in 82 countries.

Examples of a Future-Fit Network

On my show CXO Spice, I interviewed AT&T’s Assistant Vice President of Market Development, Kevin Smith. In his slight Southern drawl—evidence of his Tennessee roots—Kevin shared real examples of how SD-WAN with AT&T Cloud and Webex Go will impact customers. “We understand a lot of customers can’t afford to hire their own IT network specialists,” said Kevin, “so anything we can do to make deployment of IT infrastructure easier is going to help.”

He says AT&T Cloud Voice integrated with Webex Go rings across all devices via a phone’s native caller. One use case example is financial companies where people can take calls from their cell phones. FINRA compliance demands calls be recorded in the financial industry. In the past, personal cell phones used by company personnel didn’t have that capability. AT&T and Cisco’s solution now enables call recording across all devices. Another example is outbound calling by insurance companies. Now the device will show the company’s customer service number while using a personal cell phone.

Kevin said that SD-WAN comes in a number of “flavors” for various sizes of businesses, but is affordable – and that’s a welcome feature for all businesses. Using Cisco’s Meraki and Catalyst devices with a managed wrapper is a turnkey solution for customers looking for standardized performance and security.

Regarding future innovations, Kevin gave a sneak peek into Cisco’s solutions and AT&T network services where users will be able to manage both the Meraki overlay network and the AT&T underlay network from a single pane of glass.

Two Kinds of Connectivity

In his essay entitled “The Law of Accelerating Returns,” author Ray Kurzweil aligned Moore’s Law of exponential growth with technology. He predicted that instead of 100 years of progress in the 21st century, we will achieve “20,000 years of progress.”

I don’t know if Mr. Kurzweil is right or not. However, I do know we live in a connected world in two important ways. The first is our relationships – the people who give us joy and meaning. The second is our technology which inspires productivity and agility in our work. Connectivity at the crossroads of technology and humanity will continue to shape the modern workforce.


This post is sponsored by AT&T Business, but the opinions are the author's own and don’t necessarily represent BBN Times and AT&T Business’s positions or strategies.

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Helen Yu

Innovation Expert

Helen Yu is a Global Top 20 thought leader in 10 categories, including digital transformation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, cybersecurity, internet of things and marketing. She is a Board Director, Fortune 500 Advisor, WSJ Best Selling & Award Winning Author, Keynote Speaker, Top 50 Women in Tech and IBM Top 10 Global Thought Leader in Digital Transformation. She is also the Founder & CEO of Tigon Advisory, a CXO-as-a-Service growth accelerator, which multiplies growth opportunities from startups to large enterprises. Helen collaborated with prestigious organizations including Intel, VMware, Salesforce, Cisco, Qualcomm, AT&T, IBM, Microsoft and Vodafone. She is also the author of Ascend Your Start-Up.

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