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Cisco Predicts 'New Era of Networking'

Cisco Systems believes the IT industry is on the threshold of a new era of networking that will see modern technologies powering new ways of building and operating networks and solving associated business challenges.

Those technologies that need to be wrangled in new ways to achieve these goals include machine learning, machine reasoning, and automation, which can simplify operations and help humans make decisions.

"Organizations need a new, integrated architecture for each network domain, one that is customized to meet the specific needs of that domain and that provides a way to communicate and enforce consistent policy across all domains," the company said in its new "2020 Global Networking Trends Report."

For more immediate predictions for the new year coming up, Cisco also published a blog detailing five trends to watch in enterprise networking in 2020.

"Networking isn't what it used to be," said Anand Oswal in the Dec. 18 post. "A few years ago, the epicenter of networking began to move. It shifted from company-owned datacenters, out to the cloud. For users, the focus of networking moved from computers connected with wires, to mobile devices connected over the air. These fundamental shifts, in where business processes run and how they're accessed, is changing how we connect our locations together, how we think about security, the economics of networking, and what we ask of the people who take care of them."

Increasing network complexity fuels adoption of multidomain technologies.
[Click on image for larger view.] Increasing network complexity fuels adoption of multidomain technologies. (source: Cisco).

Here's a brief summary of the five trends as explained by Oswal:

  • Wireless: It's Wi-Fi, It's 5G. It's Both. Eventually, having even more pervasive, high-speed, secure wireless connectivity will open up new kinds of business opportunities in all industries, from healthcare to transportation. In combination with the improved performance of both Wi-Fi 6 and (eventually) 5G, we are in for a large – and long-lived – period of innovation in access networking.
  • The Network as Intelligent Sensor: With software that is able to profile and classify the devices, end points, and applications (even when they are sending fully encrypted data), the network will be able to place the devices into virtual networks automatically, enable the correct rule set to protect those devices, and eventually identify security issues extremely quickly. Ultimately, systems will be able to remediate issues on their own, or at least file their own help desk tickets. This becomes increasingly important as networks grow increasingly complex.
  • SD-WAN Plans Solidify in 2020: The workplace is becoming virtual, not physical. Businesses now hire talent wherever it is, and these dispersed employees are connecting to increasing numbers of cloud services. This dispersal of connectivity – the growth of multicloud networking – will force many businesses to re-tool their networks in favor of SD-WAN technology. IDC research shows that almost 95% of the enterprises they surveyed expect to be using SD-WAN within 24 months.
  • Multidoman Needs Spur Controller-Based Integration: The intent based networking model that enterprises began adopting in 2019 is making network management more straightforward by absorbing the complexities of the network. However, networking systems are made up of multiple networks themselves (for example, campus networks and WANs), as well as domains of technology that are traditionally managed in their own domains (for example, security). For better management, agility, and especially for security, these multiple domains need to work together. Each domain's controller needs to work in a coordinated manner to enable automation, analytics and security across the various domains. The next generation of controller-first architectures for network fabrics allow the unified management of loosely-coupled systems using APIs and defined data structures for inter-device and inter-domain communication. With the way networks are changing, there is no other solution to keep ahead of system growth and complexity.
  • From Network Engineer to Network Programmer: The standard way that network operators work – provisioning network equipment using command-line interfaces like CLI – is nearing the end of the line. Today, intent-based networking lets us tell the network what we want it to do, and leave the individual device configuration to the larger system itself. We can also now program our updates, rollouts, and changes using centralized networking controllers, again not working directly with devices or their own unique interfaces. But new networks run by APIs require programming skills to manage. Code is the resource behind the creation of new business solutions.

"Together, new capabilities will make networks into even more important business assets, and companies will leverage them in ways that we have not imagined," said Oswal, who pointed to the aforementioned Networking Technology Trends report for more information.

That report goes into much greater detail about global trends and their impacts on networking, such as globalization, digital business transformation, business automation, business and operational resilience and sustainability, and technology trends. For technology trends alone, the company listed six ways the evolving application landscape is changing:

  • Apps and data are leaving the premises: Applications and data are being modularized into microservices and moved to multiple public clouds. In some cases, they are also being distributed to the network edge. And they are increasingly being consumed from multiple software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers.
  • Apps are modular and distributed across environments: Monolithic applications are in many cases dissolving into interconnected microservices that are delivered via a variety of virtual and physical workloads, including containers, across the entire enterprise.
  • Apps are being built continuously and rapidly: For applications developed and hosted on-premises, IT has to accelerate its own infrastructure service creation and delivery to meet the needs of applications and users, all while containing operational costs.
  • Apps are migrating from physical to virtual to containers to serverless: The rise of containers is exposing application design and deployment paradigms to a much more massive disruption, namely serverless architectures, which is forcing organizations to reexamine how applications are built, the role of infrastructure, and the design of operational processes.

Besides the evolving app landscape, the report goes into detail on the effects of other trends on networking:

  • Internet of Things (IoT): In addition to providing connectivity and security for an incredibly diverse range of IoT devices, network administrators will need to devise scalable and efficient ways of automatically identifying, classifying, and applying policies and monitoring them to ensure proper functionality without impacting or compromising other services running on the network.
  • Artificial intelligence: To unlock the full potential of AI in business, more computational processing and decision making have to be done closer to the edge. Depending on performance, capacity, privacy, and even cost considerations, the placement of AI processing and data will range from the cloud to on-premises data centers to the edge of the network.
  • Mobility: Employees accessing cloud applications from corporate and private devices when off network is creating a lack of visibility and control that network and security administrators haven't faced. And a wave of IoT devices will add to wireless networking requirements in terms of scale, different traffic patterns, and security.
  • Security:While the network will continue to be a powerful ally in identifying and containing threats, network and security operations need to share data and integrate tools and workflows to best combat the continued rise in number and sophistication of attacks. In addition, the network can extend the reach of IT into cloud environments to help protect applications and data even when not directly under their control.
  • Immersive experiences: The network will need to provide the end-to-end bandwidth and low-latency communications and dynamic performance controls required to enable such immersive experiences.

Cisco concluded by offering intent-based networking -- which it offers -- as the new kind of network that's needed to harness emerging technologies and leverage new capabilities to meet business goals.

"In 2025, a leading-edge enterprise network will be able to take a requirement communicated in natural language from any line of business and automatically translate that into a set of policies and automated actions that will ensure that the business need is continuously met across the network—all without impacting any other existing services," Cisco said. "A network with these kinds of capabilities is what's commonly known as an intent-based network."

The company earlier this year announced new solutions that take its intent-based networking technology to the software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) space, promising increased visibility and control for disparate branches.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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