Greg Montjoie
Greg Montjoie Head: Internet Access/SDN

Anyone who is anyone in the technology industry is talking about the major shift that is on the horizon: the change in the way enterprise networks work. We saw the harbingers of change in 2016, and this year, the future is coming more clearly into focus. Terms like SDN, virtualisation, the IoT and others are guiding discussions about WANs and where they are going – these are among the enterprise network trends and connectivity solutions you need to watch, and below, you shall see why.

WAN redesign

The top network trend is an overhaul of Wide Area Network (WAN) architecture. According to Jeff Reed, senior vice president of Enterprise at Cisco, as more and more businesses move their applications to the cloud, the traditional, complex “demilitarised zones” of their data centres are either being augmented or fully replaced with points of presence hosted in colocation facilities. This cuts traffic that is destined for the cloud to be backhaul to the data centre and then to the Internet. The benefit is that it significantly boosts the speed and efficiency of network transport, and opens possibilities for service and productivity.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is popular  in the operational technology of businesses of all kinds, as COOs and CEOs realise the value it can bring to the workplace. We are witnessing the growing adoption of connected tech like smart lighting, location services, air-conditioning and more. Enhanced security capabilities, thanks to segmentation and profiling, are making IoT platforms safer. This means enterprises can be innovative and unlock exciting future applications of the technology.

Software-Defined Networks

The data centre stalwarts, Software-Defined Networks (SDNs), are being brought to the WAN (in both wired and wireless environments) as must-have connectivity solutions. This is the year that the utopian dream of end-to-end programmability and automation across all network domains will start to become a tangible reality. You can expect complete, available – and, most importantly, viable – SDN infrastructure as business leaders realise the limitations of legacy networks, and begin to demand flexibility.

Network Functions Virtualisation

Tying in nicely with the rise of SDN, Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) is set to be another hot growth area in 2017. NFV, spreading from service providers to enterprises, is exciting. It allows network teams with multiple branches or offices to easily provision, chain, scale/adjust and manage branch network services. It means substantial cost savings too; decoupling network devices and hosting them in a virtual environment means less outlay on hardware, less complexity, and less hassle – particularly when it comes to troubleshooting and maintenance.

Future-proof devices

There is also a strong push for devices that are not locked to any specific software or operating system. CTOs are essentially calling for devices that are agnostic, allowing them to be upgraded as and when technology changes – and as we know, that is almost continually. Anything that is future-proof is also changeable; able to shrink or expand its services and functionality according to demand. In this sense, it is a synonym for efficiency. Being bound by restrictive contracts with vendors limits both the productivity levels of an enterprise, as well as its potential for growth.

Of course, the five network trends that we have explored above are not the only movers, shakers and shapers of enterprise network environments. Advancements in WiFi technology and improvements to the cloud will give rise to new capabilities and exciting opportunities for business growth.

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