Enterprise networking is rapidly changing, expanding, and shifting outside of organizations and into the cloud. New network trends reflect new technologies, changing security needs, and increasing opportunities for organizations to benefit from rather than simply utilize and maintain networks, leveraging cloud, machine learning, and smarter more-secure tools.
While not every organization should adopt trends because they are trends, maintaining a modern and capable network is often relevant to maintaining business goals, staying competitive, and offering employees tools that add value.
These 6 enterprise network trends to consider in 2020 comprise some of the most interesting happenings in the field, and some that you should consider investing in and adapting to.
SD-WAN has been a hot topic since nearly 2018, but most organizations still haven’t adapted. IDC Research’s Software Defined WAN Survey showed that 95% of surveyed organizations expect to be using SD-WAN by end-2020. Most organizations cite reasons including secure cloud connectivity, improved cloud app performance, and simplified management for WAN as key drivers for adoption.
This shift is in-part pushed by the increasing switch to cloud technologies including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions like Azure for virtual computing, with technology stacks kept completely in the cloud. SD-WAN is increasingly offered as a managed service, allowing organizations to quickly implement and setup solutions or hybrid solutions.
Virtual Network Functions and Network Function Virtualization are quickly becoming outdated as Cloud Native Functions (CNFs) take their place. This is especially true as more organizations switch to cloud networks and cloud-hosted networks, enabling faster and stronger networks with less risk, downtime, and investment.
Some advantages include microservice architecture (12-factor apps), microservice discovery mechanisms, dynamic elasticity, faster restart, lifecycle management across containers, continuous deployment, automation principles in place, and built-in security features for cloud-native penetration and security testing.
While relatively new, Cloud Native Functions are now offered by top providers including Cisco and are being adopted by organizations big and small. For most, the advantages lie in automation, accessibility, and container portability, making management and control easier.
With enterprise services and applications moving to the cloud, it makes sense to switch to CNF.
Wireless Fidelity 6, also known as 802.11ax, is the newest WIFI standard, developed to support 5G. These standards largely rolled out in the U.S. in 2019, meaning most organizations that haven’t already adopted should do so in 2020.
WIFI 6 offers numerous advantages for enterprise, including improved support for more devices on a single router, increased speed, and better support for the Internet of Things. Doing so means upgrading routers to new 802.11ax compatible routers, ensuring network infrastructure supports data transferred at speed, and ensuring switches and hubs support that data transfer to prevent bottlenecks.
Organizations implementing WIFI 6 should so while implementing monitoring tools to track performance, data usage, and issues.
Networks are getting smarter and that means organizations can do more with infrastructure. The first changes were simple monitoring programs allowing organizations to automate network monitoring and management.
Today, automation and machine learning are advanced enough that networks can function as smart data-collection tools. Here, some of the most important concepts including virtual network prioritization, issue identification and remediation, virtual device deployment, and data collection on device usage and optimization.
Some examples include machine learning algorithms capable of profiling and classifying all devices on the network, with end points and applications. This allows the network to sense bottlenecks and issues, to recommend virtual device deployment (in cloud networks) and identify security issues automatically.
Most modern programs can also take steps to solve issues or file security tickets, without direct intervention from IT staff. While IT monitoring will never be completely automated, implementing smart network tools is quickly becoming the standard, and tools may even be deployed automatically with some cloud solutions.
Networks are understandably growing more complex. Organizations typically have a network architecture consisting of networks nested within networks nested within networks. Companies deploy networks for print, servers, private access, and for specific teams. Others implement cloud solutions. Campus networks, technology domains, security networks, WAN, SD-WAN, etc.all have to work together.
Controller-First Architecture is increasingly used as the solution, allowing the creation of defined data structures and APIs for inter-device and domain communication. While Controller-First Architecture isn’t necessarily the right step for your organization, it’s increasingly seen as the only way forward for many networks.
Network operators have traditionally functioned to monitor and maintain their networks, spending a large portion of time on repetitive manual tasks. Increasingly, these tasks are automated, solutions are automated, and network controls are largely handed over to machine learning algorithms and APIs. Modern network operators are relying less on CLI to provision equipment and increasingly programming the network to perform tasks on its own.
This is resulting in a consistent shift towards network programming, where code-based API make up the majority of responsibility and value offered by the operator. Organizations can prepare for this shift by introducing code to network teams, introducing programmers, or teaching teams code from the ground up to ensure teams stay ahead of the curve, and able to add value to teams.
Implementing these changes can be difficult, especially as network operators may be resistant to change and changing responsibilities, but integrating programs is crucial to maintaining control of and ability to operate the network. This will remain more true as businesses increasingly outsource network provision to cloud and MSP, but still have to retain internal control.
Networks are changing rapidly. Organizations can often benefit by making changes, adopting new practices, and preparing for functionality and role switches. Here, some of the most difficult and expensive tasks will be preparing people and hardware for changes, especially as old tools are completely replaced.
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