A conversation with Markus Nispel, VP of International Markets at the Office of the CTO
In your role, you focus on developing products for Extreme’s future. But the future is always changing, right up until it arrives, which is the theme of our talk today. The latest shift in the world seems to be an understanding that the pandemic state will last longer and have a more significant effect than initially realized by most. It’s increasingly referred to as an endemic, with the idea that we are entering a new permanent state of living. How does that change the development of technology? Or does it?
Fun fact: I just did a prediction for a local newspaper in Europe about what will happen in 2022. And the statement that I made is precisely the statement you just made, which is that the short-term requirements have ended. We’re currently in a long-term trend towards creating a more permanent and stable distributed enterprise. This affects the strategies of all enterprises and organizations: how they interact and communicate with employees, customers, and partners. And obviously, as Extreme Networks looks at our development as a company, we also need to change long term. We need to align with those strategies and expectations from enterprises.
Are we mostly talking about a form of scale for companies? Are we talking about how companies need to scale either up or down as we enter the next phase of the pandemic in 2022?
Solutions for enterprises today require two core things. You have to be able to scale up so that you can reach everyone you need to, and you have to scale down to one, so you cater to the individual needs of each customer or employee. That’s the work that must happen now for enterprises.
These seemingly opposing needs must be taken into account. You must be able to scale up quickly and be more flexible for any requirements you may have, which means ensuring that what you do is delivered through an agile and flexible service. That’s the Cloud. So enterprises need to think: How do I leverage Cloud native technologies to scale up?
Just as important is scaling down. Scaling to one – putting thought into each individual — is a crucial part of the addressable market moving forward. The users, the employees, the customers: they are all at home now. So, you need to be able to scale down your capabilities to become commercially viable in those very small environments. That isn’t easy because that hasn’t been the focus. In the past, we have emphasized building large networks and large organizations. So scaling down to one is as hard. It’s probably more difficult than scaling up in the Cloud.
Can you explain how scaling to one works in practice then? What do you need?
It’s a very different set of capabilities in terms of costs. You can’t spend thousands of dollars on physical infrastructure for your home or home office. It needs to be cost-effective because businesses have thousands or tens of thousands of employees working at home. And nobody is willing to spend a fortune on that, at least not yet. So, the infrastructure that you build – Wi-Fi access points, SD-WAN routers, potentially 5G connectivity — need to be affordable. Your security measures also need to scale to each individual as you provide services.
Does that require new technology that doesn’t exist now? Or does it just need a commitment to manufacturing and developing that kind of technology?
Commitment to design and then subsequent manufacturing more than anything else. There are certainly no new magic technologies required. It’s just a different way of how you design things moving forward.
You’re making it sound quite simple, but you’re actually talking about a massive transformation of how networks function and their ultimate purpose.
Oh, definitely! The number of endpoints in your network goes up exponentially. So does the necessity to ensure an enterprise work experience that is exactly the same while working from home or from anywhere, as it is working from the office. That has to be the goal.
That’s really a high standard that organizations need to achieve so that each employee is not just connected but feels as if they are a fundamental part of the enterprise. You don’t want people feeling like they are on the tail end, falling off because nobody’s paying attention to how their day is structured. And this could be dependent on the tools provided to the individual. So the infrastructure needs to be built around reaching them.
Is that the permanent shift that you see then? In the past year, everybody rushed to Zoom as a temporary solution. We all shut the office, but we kept the office, just with no one in it. What happens next?
It is what’s happening, absolutely. There’s a massive shift in how we work, and it won’t be treated as a reaction to a problem, but as a permanent state. So that applies to networks, structures, infrastructure, and security, but also applications. Zoom is not the entire answer. A new set of tools will emerge that will make that experience of working in a highly distributed environment closer and closer to what it used to be in the office. Augmented reality, Metaverse use cases, and other technologies will become a part of that. Maybe they will work or maybe not, though.
But for sure, there will be a new set of services and applications that you will see in the marketplace showing up that addresses the tectonic shift in terms of how people are going to work long term. So that phase of applications and services hasn’t yet really started. But they will. Going beyond Zoom? That’s absolutely going to happen.
Another fun fact: The brewing company Corona did a study that showed when they brought people back into the office for the first time, most of the employees maintained their previous distributed behavior to join meetings. They didn’t attend in person. They stayed at their desk and used video to conference with people sitting beside or near them. That was really, really interesting to see.
I personally feel that Zoom became the big equalizer. So suddenly, remote employees have the same voice as everybody else in the room because everybody’s just a small square on the screen, instead of the boss sitting up at the front. So, you get a much better balanced and more diverse set of opinions being shared and used to drive the organization forward. And I think many organizations who have embraced it are more effective post-pandemic, because of the democratic nature of the technology.
That’s interesting. In most of the sketches I’ve seen about the Metaverse, it’s back to a digital boardroom. Presumably with the boss at the head of the table again.
(Laughs) We’re going to see where all this goes. The concept of the total experience becomes important. And the total experience is the sum of customer user experience and everything else that makes up everything that creates your interaction with an organization, whether it’s your employer or a potential vendor that you want to buy something from as, as a customer.
So these concepts and making sure you have a strategic plan on how you want to optimize your network to use it as a differentiating factor for the organization… I think is going to be key.
“Total experience” is your pick as the, the buzzword phrase of 2022?
That’s the one. Total experience. And everyone’s digital experience becomes everything that matters under the new model we are heading towards…
This interview was conducted by Jon Filson, Senior Content Producer, Office of the CTO.