As 2018 draws to a close, what should we expect when the calendar moves to January? Dominant trends in network technology for the new year include expansion and decentralization.
Networking will become an increasingly popular connector, as more and more businesses go to the cloud or leave the data center. These migrations will keep IT on its toes, along with the following trends in network technology:
1. Software-defined networking vendors will lower expectations, focusing more on smaller, short-term improvements, rather than massive data center projects. The unwillingness to modify existing infrastructure shifts the vendor’s focus from data center efficiency to project efficiency, instead focusing on smaller deployment pockets. The total data center makeover is more like a haircut and a new costume.
2. The SD-WAN Market will continue to consolidate, but most of the winners have already been acquired. Any SD-WAN-only vendor without a significant footprint or growth path will be challenged, as SD-WAN becomes a feature or a product, not a business.
3. Businesses realize the cloud is here to stay. But they also find that no single supplier can meet all needs. Multiple cloud providers increase complexity, but it also provides better leverage. Wait multi-cloud will become more prevalent in the new year as one of the main trends in network technology.
4. While many will talk about cloud repatriation – applications moving from the cloud to the premises – the increase in on-premises applications will not come from the return of applications; it will mainly be the apps that never budged in the first place. Even AWS launched on-premises services, an indicator that data centers are not dead. Most repatriation activity will be companies trying to find a balance or a balance. This is not an indicator that the cloud is dying; it may have been overestimated.
5. The structure will continue to decentralize, placing more emphasis on advanced computing. With less stress at the edge versus the data center, data and applications will grow rapidly as businesses attempt to reduce decision-making latency. In a few years, the concern will be the spreading of the edges. But, for now, plan for larger circuits and upstream traffic.
6. Everything is now IoT-activated, bringing a deeper insight into operations and actions. But the flip side is that we will have so much data that decision making can actually slow down by trying to correlate too much or wait for that last data point to arrive.
7. Security will get worse. Yes, the security fiasco that is 2018 will be eclipsed by 2019. The two trends above, Edge and IoT, will increase the attack surface and create more opportunities for misconfigurations that can be exploited by outsiders – or even insiders. Watch for more incursions and data loss stories throughout the year.
8. The marketing team of each supplier will push AI and machine learning. But most of these teams won’t understand precisely what the technology is or how it works. Almost all network devices are instrumented, sending telemetry to huge data lakes. But our ability to glean real ideas lags far behind. As with IoT, it’s easy to collect data, but much more difficult to turn that data into real information. Look for a lot of complaints, but less quantifiable results.
9. The persistent gap between business needs and network devices grows with each generation due to complexity. Intent-based networking will become more mainstream – not to simplify or stupefy things. Instead, it will be connection infrastructure with reasonable business goals. IT needs to start speaking the language of business, because for almost every business today, IT is a business.
Call me a pessimist or an optimist. Either way, 2019 will continue many of the networking tech trends we’ve seen over the years.
The most common question journalists ask me is, “What’s the next big thing that’s fundamentally changing the network?” The good news is that there are no bombs on the horizon. Trends in network technology will be about incremental change and evolution, not revolution.