Trends In Networking

Vijay Bollapragada, CTO, Service Provider Segment (APJ), CiscoVijay is passionate about bringing Technology vision and Business expertise to achieve corporate goals and has 25+ years of experience in the IT industry

Networking startedout as a collection of computers sending commands to one other and is foundational for connecting people, enterprises, mobile networks, cloud and IoT. Networks typically operate behind the scenes and people generally don’t think about them unless something stops working. We are in the midst of unprecedented change that is happening at a pace that has not been encountered in our history. Imagine a world without the Internet, social media or mobile phones, we created more data in the last two years than the previous 5000 years of human history. The year 2017 saw more devices connected to each other than the entire population of the world and this number is expected to hit 20 billion devices by year 2020. These technologies have impacted our lives and transformed our society both socially and economically. None of this would have happened without the Network!

In this article I am attempting to highlight trends in networking technology that will help accelerate the digital transformation by making networks easier to manage, enabling more bandwidth, provide better security and a better enduser experience.

IoT: The term Internet of Things (IoT) was coined in 1999 and refers to connection of devices to a public or private Internet, in 2018, the number of IoT devices has exceeded the number of people on the planet to about approximately seven billion devices. This number is expected to grow to 20 billion by 2020 and 22 billion by 2025. There are multiple technologies that connect these devices which are:

•Wireless Personal Networks- such as Bluetooth, NFC Zigbee and Z-wave and typically does not exceed
100 m in range.

•WLAN- Wi-Fi is the most common standard in this category and seeing tremendous growth, mostly due to
smart home assistants (Google home, Alexa), smart TV and smart speakers. Industrial usage of Wi-Fi is also seeing an increase.

•Low Power Wide Area Networks- Technologies such as NB-IoT, Lora and Sigfox fall into this category that offer High battery life and communication range of over 20 km.

•Cellular- 2G, 3G and 4G have been used since their inception

•5G-Many IoT use cases such as
autonomous cars are betting on 5G that promises high bandwidth and low latency.

Security and dealing with massive amounts of data in real-time are major concerns with proliferation of IoT.

Network Analytics: Massive amounts of network data are creating a demand for advanced network analytics that will revolutionize infrastructure management, simplify operations and improve end user experience. Machine learning with network analytics will not only help troubleshoot issues, but diagnose root causes and recommend corrective actions, ML can process large amount of data, monitor traffic patterns and pinpoint performance issues and abnormal user activity helping network become more secure.

Massive amounts of network data are creating a demand for advanced network analytics that will revolutionize infrastructure management, simplify operations and improve end user experience

5G: Almost every major mobile operator in the world has publicly announced plans to launch a 5G service. The technology promises massive bandwidth and supports low latency use cases that will open up new ecosystems and business models across every Industry. Latency in 5G is expected to be less than one millisecond compared to 4G network whose latency is in the order of 25 milliseconds. Low latency is especially important for applications such as self driving cars and robot aided surgeries where the slightest delay could mean life or death.

SDN & NFV: The new networks to handle IoT & 5G need to provide connections that are 100x faster than current network and be more agile and flexible. SDN separates the network’s control plane from the forwarding plane and provides centralized policy efficient orchestration and automation of network services. NFV is complementary to SDN and focuses on optimizing the network services themselves by decoupling network functions such as DNS, firewall, caching from proprietary hardware appliances to generic compute platforms in software to accelerate service innovation and provisioning.

Software defined WAN (SD-WAN) is another rising application of SDN, enterprises are increasingly leveraging SD-WAN for managing costs by investing much cheaper broadband. Dedicated Internet Access (DIA)is another connection which is securely compared to an expensive MPLS-based WAN, especially since majority of enterprise applications are being accessed from the Public Cloud.

Wi-Fi 6/802.11ax: Wi-Fi is now ubiquitous in our lives. The traditional problem with Wi-Fi is handling congestion when multiple devices are accessing the network at the same time, this is a common scenario with almost all devices having Wi-Fi connectivity. The latest standard in Wi-Fi called 802.11ax (aka Wi-Fi 6 by the Wi-Fi alliance) addresses these issues. It will be a significant step in improving wireless speeds and also offers better power efficiency.

Intent Based Networking(IBN): One of the biggest challenges in enterprise networking today is translating business intent into configuration on the network elements to achieve the desired intent. The operating costs of networks are typically 3x the cost of buying the network and is mainly CLI-driven that is prone to manual errors. The main objective of IBN is to translate business intent to network configuration via automation. It will use analytics and machine learning to constantly adapt to changing needs and conditions.

Edge Computing: The proliferation of IoT devices and latency sensitive applications are the primary reasons for edge computing. With edge computing, the processing and analysis of data moves close to the edge of the network, helping in decision making locally without back hauling the data to a data center or cloud. This is a small list of networking technologies that are fundamental for the digital transformation that is underway, this is not a comprehensive list by any means.