Take a look at the leading network technology trends for 2017 and you simply cannot ignore the dominance of “digitalization” or, as some are calling it, the “age of digital transformation” we are currently going through.
It seems as if everything is going “digital”, be it in production, services, processes or applications. Mobility and the Internet of everything—not just things—are dominating the current developments of leading industry players around the globe.
Digitalization offers enormous advantages and will drive growth across the whole technology and IT industry for years to come. At its heart is the need of communications between these technical/electronic devices via wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi or other low-frequency technologies.
But this is about more than just the fastest wireless access and the latest IEEE Wi-Fi standards. The way networks are designed, i.e. their architecture, and the way they are planned and set up are also changing dramatically. For one simple reason: Classical approaches have reached their limits when it comes to handling the ever-increasing number of devices/clients, their unstoppable hunger for bandwidth, as well as the mounting complexity and security threats in today’s networked world.
For this reason, it is impossible to reduce digitalization to just one major network trend for 2017. From a manufacturer’s point of view, we anticipate that a set of interacting trends will sculpt the networking landscape in 2017.
5 Major Network Trends:
1. Gigabit Wi-Fi enters the next Stage
With the adoption of WAVE 2 Wi-Fi, true Gigabit finally comes to the world of wireless. Admittedly, the technology itself is not exactly brand new, but in today’s businesses with their existing ac or even 802.11n infrastructures, its use is still fairly rare.
In 2017, we expect this to change dramatically. Factors like an increasing demand for high-speed Wi-Fi and the growing number of Wave 2-enabled mobile devices—laptop computers, tablets, smartphones—along with trends such as Bring-your-own-Device (BYOD) and the all-wireless office, will push the adoption of Gigabit Wi-Fi and the demand for Multi-User MIMO WAVE 2-enabled ac access points.
In order to truly benefit from such a powerful Wi-Fi infrastructure, though, we should not forget one central aspect: Wi-Fi is not, and never has been, an island. Without the proper backup on the LAN and WAN-side of the network, any speed improvement on the wireless side would actually be in vain.
2. The Age of the Internet of Everything
2017 will see the coming-of-age of the Internet of Things (IoT) or the Internet of Everything (IoE). What was merely a fuzzy buzzword in the beginning has now become reality. The trend towards ever smarter devices, which talk to each other or have increasing levels of automation to make our lives even more convenient, has paved the way for machine-to-machine communications. The IoT industry will grow in relevance and importance not only in this year, but for years to come.
Accordingly, current surveys predict a massive growth of the IoT industry in the next couple of years. The number of devices per person is set to increase to 3.5 with a total of 33 billion connected devices worldwide by 2020.
3. The Wireless Family becomes More Diverse
The rise of the Internet of Things will entail the development and adoption of alternative radio protocols and wireless technologies. Traditional 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi, but also Bluetooth, play a fixed and vital role in digitalization. However, they reach their limits when it comes to real-time applications, such as in industry 4.0, and also in terms of power consumption as the vast majority of IoT devices will run on batteries.
Rising stars among radio standards will be low-energy technologies such as BLE, ZigBee and Z-Wave along with the new long-range, low-bandwidth Wi-Fi standard by the IEEE, 802.11ah (Wi-Fi HaLow). BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), for example, is able to run on a small battery for years. ZigBee and Z-Wave are also low-energy consumption technologies. All of them are low-bandwidth technologies, which limits their application to simple devices like motion sensors, smart lightbulbs or other simple smart-home functionalities.
As yet it is unclear which of these low-energy radio technologies will ultimately make the race, so one approach is to include different radio technologies into a single device in order to achieve maximum compatibility and functionality, and to make them future-proof. We at LANCOM are among the first network equipment manufacturers to include a variety of radio chipsets into a single product, as well as making our APs able to communicate with electronic shelf labels and digital signage displays.
4. The Future of Corporate Networks is Software-defined:
2017 will be the year of software-defined networking (SDN) technologies, the ground-breaking, disruptive game changer for the whole networking industry. Conventional network architectures today are facing ever bigger challenges and higher complexity. Networks are becoming more and more difficult to manage, and setting them up is extremely time consuming and prone to error.
By means of a software-defined approach, even complex network scenarios can be installed, monitored and expanded fully automatically with just a few clicks of the mouse. The concept provides centralized, location-independent design, management, and monitoring of networks and has the potential to eliminate the remaining entry barriers for so many companies wanting to enter into digitalization. However, companies will only be able to fully benefit from this huge potential if their SDN-based solution spans the entire network, including all network components such as routers, gateways (SD-WAN), switches (SD-LAN), and access points (SD-WLAN).
The huge benefits of the SDN-approach are acknowledged by analysts worldwide. Gartner, for example, project that 30% of enterprises will deploy SD-WAN technologies by 2019. Other analysts are even more optimistic and are predicting adoption rates of 60% and higher (for example: IHS Markit).
But SD-WAN is only the beginning. Pure SD-WAN solutions are unable to deliver the full end-to-end application dynamics and network orchestration that are essential to modern, complex network environments. This is why the growth rates for combined and comprehensive SD-WAN, SD-LAN and SD-WAN solutions is likely to be even more impressive.
5. Security, Security, Security!
The economic slowdown in China, President Trump, Brexit: the business world is facing uncertain times and has started to rethink its investments in IT. According to a recent survey on Spiceworks, “nearly 40% say global political instability causes their organization to reconsider where they purchase IT products and services.”
This further fuels the general trend towards more IT security caused by a growing number of cyber attacks and the fact that cyber criminals today target not only large enterprises and governments, but just about anybody they can reach, including millions of SMBs around the globe who might be easier targets.
In the 2017 edition of its annual “What To Expect From Networking” roundup, Forbes even predict that “security will drive almost every decision”. Furthermore, they see security as a central “driver for SDN adoption”.
Your Decision to Change the Game
From a network manufacturer’s point of view, 2017 has many opportunities and pitfalls to offer. On the one hand, the digitalization of everything will drive the development, usage and adoption of new technologies and take productivity to a new and unknown level. On the other hand, it will make businesses even more prone to security threats, which demands entirely new concepts for network design and management.
The good news is: We have answers to these new demands! Be it Gigabit speed in all-wireless environments, new low-energy technologies for IoT and IoE, trustworthy infrastructure solutions that come with a “backdoor-free” guarantee, or the most comprehensive SDN- and cloud-based network management solution on the market: The offer is there, it only needs to be taken.
It is your decision to change the game this year.