Cisco sees SDN, Internet of Things in its 2014 crystal ball

Real-time Web communications and killer apps to harness them coming too

Next year will see demonstrable evidence of the Internet of Things, real-time communications on the Web, and SDN-enabled platforms with killer applications for them.

So says Cisco, which this week offered its own predictions on technology trends for 2014. They understandably include markets Cisco is focusing on and looking to drive in order to grow revenue.

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The first is the Internet of Things, a market that includes IP-enabled sensors embedded in machines to allow them to connect share information with people and other machines across the Internet. This market will see 50 billion devices connected by 2020 and a value of $14.4 trillion, Cisco has said and repeated this week.

Three examples of the Internet of Things in action that will emerge in the next 12 months include real-time information, scale and analytics, says Maciej Kranz, vice president of the Cisco’s corporate technology group. An example of real-time information in the Internet of Things is data collected centrally from global production locations, and then readily acted upon by product managers or developers.

An example of scale might be a logistics company needing predictive maintenance information on the shipment of packages. If one tracking site is getting “hot,” Kranz says, perhaps package trackers can take action to alleviate shipment bottlenecks.

For analytics, perhaps a vending machine that can notify a supplier when its inventory is getting low instead of that supplier manually visiting each and every vending location to check on inventory. Or an oil rig in the middle of the ocean able to proactively share data on its status with a central monitoring facility.

Another expectation for next year is the use of real-time communications on the Web, such as that enabled by WebRTC. This technology enables browser-to-browser audio and video conferencing, and Cisco is looking to have an H.264 codec added to WebRTC.

Such a capability might be helpful in “high-end” travel where flight arrangements could be quickly changed in the event of inclement weather, says Susie Wee, Cisco vice president and chief technology officer for networked experiences. It could also be helpful in call centers to improve business-to-consumer interactions, she says.

Another trend Wee sees emerging next year is the integration of Internet of Things data from sensors with collaboration tools used by decision making personnel. Such “contextual collaboration” could speed decision making and help enterprises such as retailers better engage with customers.

And with 50 billion devices coming online in just six or so years, Cisco predicts the Internet will ramp up usage of IPv6 addresses next year to prepare for it.

“There are more addresses than atoms on the Earth” with IPv6, says Dave Ward, Cisco chief technology officer of engineering and chief architect.

Ward also expects the hype curve associated with software-defined networking to trend downward next year, replaced instead by actual SDN-enabled platforms offering networking-as-a-service. Such NaaS platforms will employ SDN to integrate networking, servers, storage and applications, he says, presumably as IT cloud services for enterprises.

But what will drive enterprises towards that model will be killer apps, such as virtualized services on top of these SDN-based networks, says Lauren Cooney, Cisco senior director of strategy and planning. Such applications expected in 2014 include security automation tools, analytics and mobility enablers, she says.

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 27 years, 22 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

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