2016 has been a fascinating year for networking. We are obligated to say that every year, but this year truly has seen some landmark innovations. The industry has made some great strides with digital transformation and Cisco has been at the forefront with multiple network innovations and awards.
In my role, I have the pleasure of speaking regularly with our customers – CIOs, CTOs, engineers, line of business owners – as well as partners and service providers about their goals and challenges. At the same time, our own product managers and engineers, the most experienced in the industry, provide me a clear view into market adoption and an inside look at what innovations are just around the corner. No matter the source, one thing is clear: we are standing at the edge of a major technology shift. The past year has paved the way and set the stage for the future – a future that is rapidly coming into clearer focus. Here are ten ways this shift will shape enterprise networking environments in 2017.
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 (OT) 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 (SDN) 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 Go 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.
There you have it – my view on what networking shifts to expect in 2017.