Millennials, those born between the 1980’s and early 2000’s will make up over 50% of the workforce by 2020. This generation of workers has very different work environment priorities than the 8 to 5 office schedule of earlier generations. Research by Inc.com shows that 74% of respondents want flexible work schedules and believe that regular office attendance is unnecessary. Further, an overwhelming 81% believe that they should be able to set their own schedules. An MTV poll shows that when millennials do go in the office, they like to wear jeans and need “me time” at work. Work/life balance is a key phrase when talking about millennial priorities.
One example of these new workflow priorities is Google where 48% of meetings happen across geographies. Even within the same building, collaboration often takes place without person to person contact through applications like Google Docs. A remote.com survey found that 60% of millennial respondents said they would leave their current job to work remotely for the same salary. Distributed workforces will become the norm rather than the exception within the next three years. Organizations who understand and embrace these new work priorities will be able to hire top talent and retain key employees.
This tectonic shift in the company/employee relationship will have a dramatic effect on how organizations design, manage and secure their data networks. Some of the new challenges include supporting a collaborative environment with remote employees, expanding corporate network access to personal devices, providing universal access to network resources from anywhere at any time, understanding changing traffic patterns and securing network infrastructure and confidential information from outside attacks.
There are many specialized network tools that need to be permanently deployed in order to analyze traffic and secure proprietary information. Network Performance and Monitoring Devices (NPMD) provide traffic capture and analysis for network traffic and applications. This is the foundation for understanding traffic flow across a network. There are many additional tools that specialize in network information and infrastructure protection. Next Generation Firewalls (NGFW) combine firewall and intrusion prevention, keeping bad actors out of corporate networks. For deeper analysis and real time protection, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools should be added. These tools can look at network and user behavior to determine if either represent malicious activity. SIEM tools are also introducing Artificial Intelligence to understand normal behavior and predict potential problem traffic. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) tools are designed to prevent unauthorized downloading of information from corporate servers. Network Access Control (NAC) products enforce security compliance by managing access authentication and authorization to utilize network resources. This is only a sample of the monitoring and security products available. The critical question is how can all these tools be connected to links without impacting network availability or breaking the bank?
Directly connecting all these tools to all links is cost prohibitive, inefficient and will have a negative impact on link reliability. Fortunately, recent advances in TAP and Packet Broker technology allow network managers to have complete visibility into network traffic from all connected devices. Traffic monitoring and security tools can be simply and safely deployed using network TAPS that will maintain link viability even if power to the TAP is lost. For larger, more complex networks, Packet Brokers offer more ports, faster speeds and advanced features for efficient utilization of those tools.
Once tools are connected to links through a TAP, the traffic can be sent to a Packet Broker witch will efficiently process throughput to the tools and back into the network. Packet Brokers can filter traffic not required by specific tools, manipulate packet payload for privacy compliance and then map the relevant traffic to various output ports. Load balancing features extend the useful life of legacy tools allowing them to continue to be used on new high speed links. Through these and other intelligent features, a single tool group may be able to manage and secure multiple links saving CAPEX.
While the average enterprise network may have about five or more tools connected to links, let’s look at a simple example to see how this all comes together. A forward thinking IT organization may connect NGFW (firewall), SIEM (malware security), DLP (protect data) and NAC (authentication and authorization) tools to their network. All these tools connect to links via network ports on a TAP. The output ports on the TAP connect to the input ports of a Packet Broker where various special features can be applied allowing many disparate tools to work in concert. Advanced visibility to network traffic is the key to safely allowing a far flung, collaborative workforce to communicate globally on their own schedules.
The current US unemployment rate is at historic lows hovering around 3.6%. Competition is intense for top talent, particularly knowledge workers. Understanding the work/life balance required by new millennial entrants to the labor market provides organizations a distinct competitive edge over companies mired in traditional 8-5 office thinking. Embracing new IT technologies will enable realization of the new work/life paradigm of telecommuting, remote collaboration and flexible hours without jeopardizing network performance or security. The HR Director and IT Director are fast becoming best friends.