Cisco execs foretell key 2017 enterprise networking trends

Cisco: WAN design, Internet of Things, SDN and other developing network changes on the menu

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Stephen Lawson

Interesting posts this week from a few Cisco executives taking a look forward into what should be a very interesting networking world in 2017.

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First up was Cisco’s Jeff Reed, Senior Vice President Enterprise Infrastructure and Solutions Group who had a blog on the top 10 list for future 2017 network trends. It reads as follow:

  • WAN redesign: Many organizations are moving applications to the cloud, and will be making significant changes to their WAN architecture. The traditional “demilitarized zones” at their own data centers will be augmented, or in some cases replaced, by points-of presence hosted in co-lo facilities. Meaning, there is no need to back-haul cloud-destined traffic to the data center and then to the internet.
  • NFV comes to the enterprise: Virtualization is hot right now – and with good cause. We’re going to see Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) spread from service providers to the enterprise – beginning in the branch. It will allow those leading-edge network teams with a multitude of branches to more easily provision, chain and scale branch network services.
  • IoT in the carpeted world: The Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming widely used in the operational technology part of the organization. Now COOs are beginning to see the value that IoT can bring to the workplace (the carpeted world). This can be via intelligent lighting, location services in the workplace or connected AC systems. Expect to see companies bringing together the myriad of “things” within their carpeted space and driving more consolidation—all enabled by better security mechanisms like segmentation and profiling.
  • SDN moves beyond the data center: The seeds of software-defined networking are already taking root in the data center and now the WAN. Expect the SDN seeds to start sprouting in campus fabrics for both wired and wireless environments. The vision of end-to-end programmability and automation across all network domains will start becoming a reality in 2017.
  • Network assurance grows up, moves into the cloud: Interesting opportunities are being enabled by machine learning. We’ll see much richer and more capable network assurance and troubleshooting capabilities. By delivering these capabilities from the cloud and leveraging the aggregated experiences of a broader set of networks, we’ll see much better (and faster) diagnosis and remediation.
  • Location-based services goes from niche to mainstream: Wireless environments, especially in industries like retail, healthcare, entertainment and hospitality, are benefitting from the technology finally catching up with the promise of location-based analytics. Improvements in Wi-Fi combined with technologies like Cisco’s Beacon Point will now deliver on the promise of applications like wayfinding and space optimization. The result: location-based services in the enterprise will move from niche to mainstream.
  • Voice over Wi-Fi at Scale: With VoWi-Fi support extending to Apple iOS devices and with expanded support from some of the major service providers, I think the user experience and roaming cost benefits will become more broadly available and realized this year, making the transfer of mobile calls to a Wi-Fi network more seamless.
  • Network “Admin” to Network “Programmer”: As the world of network programmability and SDN become more prevalent, so will the need for new skill-sets. Network admins who can combine deep networking knowledge with programming capability have the opportunity to drive impressive improvements in speed and scale of network ops. I expect 2017 to be an inflection point in the number of network admins learning value-added programming skills through programs like the Cisco Learning Network.
  • Programming moves from device to controller: While device-level programmability is a foundation for sustainable automated networking, I predict there will be much more focus this year on moving up the stack to controller-based programmability. This is where the real simplification, scalability and sophistication of the network happens. The majority of programming innovation will happen at the controller level with direct impact on the services traversing the network rather than with individual devices.
  • Low Power Wireless Access takes off: Low Power Wireless Access (LPWA) is beginning to take off and spawn lots of new IoT applications. It’s an ideal solution for large-scale, low cost, geographically dispersed sensors with low data rate where long battery life/low energy consumption is needed. LoRaWAN is being used for a broad range of Enterprise use-cases and operators are looking forward to Narrow Band IoT (NB-IoT) to augment their mobile networks.

Meanwhile, Rowan Trollopewho is Cisco senior vice president and general manager, IoT and Applications says that in the next year, the Internet will connect to about 1.5 billion new “things,” and by 2020, over 20 billion devices will be online.

“In theory, every one of them will be able to connect to every other. The Internet was not created to handle this population explosion of data-generating devices. It won’t collapse suddenly, but it does need to change,” he wrote. A couple predictions from him include:

  • The “edge” of the Internet will become a huge growth market: Some IoT devices do have the potential to swamp existing networks. Cameras send a lot of real-time rich data. New jet engines are laden with sensors and generate 10 gigabits per second when running, terabits per flight. Cars also are now recording massive amounts of information. If there’s one part of the global IoT network that needs rapid upgrades to serve business, it’s the “edge,” the border between IoT devices and the computers on the Internet. The massive amounts of data being generated by the IoT need to be processed, reduced, and analyzed before it hits the Internet. It’s a big opportunity.
  • Cellular carriers will win the bandwidth battle: The carriers’ next-generation “5G” wireless networks are being built today. They can support more connected devices at a time, and more importantly, 5G networks have lower latency, which is critical in automotive applications (so cars can communicate with each other and with road-side sensors and transmitters): When your device is moving at freeway speeds, high latency communications between two cars can be extremely problematical. The carriers will end up setting standards for (and profiting from) the growth of networked devices.

 Finally, we haveMacario Namie Head of IoT Strategy for Cisco Jasper. You may recall that Cisco purchased IoT platform vendor Jasper Technologies for $1.4 billion in February. Namie said that Low Power Wide Area Networks will gain mainstream adoption in 2017.

“For years, cellular connectivity has been the primary transport for IoT due to its ubiquity, scalability and security. But as the number of services enabled by IoT devices continues to grow exponentially, many IoT applications have arisen that require long range and low-power capabilities. And this is where Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) come in. For the past few years, a number of different standards, technologies, operators and infrastructure vendors have emerged, Namie said.

[The IDG News Service earlier this year wrote of LPWAN: Several technologies are vying to become the LPWAN of choice for enterprises and service providers. LoRaWAN, based on a specification from the LoRa Alliance industry group, is one of the frontrunners. Proprietary networks from companies such as SigFox and Ingenu are also pushing hard to play that role. Another LPWAN system, NB-IoT, looms over this fast-moving market because it’s based on LTE and could be implemented fairly easily on mobile operators’ networks. NB-IoT has just become a standard and is expected to hit the market in a big way next year. But one place NB-IoT won’t play is in enterprises, so LoRa technology may have a big future in businesses that build their own IoT infrastructure.

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Namie also said thatHigh profile DDoS attacks such as those in late October helped to highlight the need for improved levels of security in IoT environments. 2017 will be the year where we see policy makers and governments step in to mandate IoT security guidelines across industries. In fact, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security just issued its “Strategic Principles for Securing the Internet of Things (IoT)” document in November.

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