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Network Critical 2020 Predictions: The Future of Networking

VMblog Predictions 2020 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2020.  Read them in this 12th annual series exclusive.

By Alastair Hartrup, CEO of Network Critical

The Future of Networking

Today's networks are evolving at a faster pace than ever before. Each year, businesses plan out new technology initiatives that will require fundamental modifications to the network. At the core of all this change is the need for granular network visibility. Although Artificial Intelligence (AI), SD-WAN, edge computing and other major technology trends present a host of business benefits, they also carry with them a set of inevitable challenges that must be addressed.

As such, it's key for networking and IT professionals to pause and assess how the latest innovations might impact their business in the coming year. Here are three predictions for networking in 2020 from Alastair Hartrup, CEO of Network Critical:

1.     Digital Transformation Will Produce Heightened Operational Risks

As increased adoption of new digital technologies transforms today's networks, we'll see organizations become more reliant on those systems and thus more susceptible to potential issues that can bring business operations to a screeching halt (degrading end user experiences hurting the bottom line).

Digital transformation is the rapid migration of business processes and culture to fully digital technology. It promises to deliver leaps forward in efficiency, effectiveness, business agility and access to new markets and opportunities. In fact, worldwide spending on digital transformation initiatives is expected to grow from US$1.3 Trillion to US$2.1 Trillion by 2021. But there are also risks, as these business process transformations naturally bring about significant digital dependencies. In tandem, enterprises must also transform their approach to network monitoring, security and systems redundancy to prevent power glitches, software bugs and other unforeseen issues from crippling operations. One prime example of digital dependency gone awry is when Target's centralized Point of Sale system crashed back in June. Every store in the country had to stop operations and usher customers out of the store, losing millions of dollars in sales. The lesson here is that digital transformation investments and initiatives should include monitoring, security, redundancy and contingency plans to maintain business operations in the event of a digital failure.

One way to do this is through TAPs and packet brokers. These tools are instrumental in new digital architectures, providing permanent and ongoing monitoring of digital network traffic. Intelligent features help manage traffic throughput to critical networking tools and provide fail safe access so power interruptions or offline maintenance issues will not disrupt live traffic. Advanced solutions such as the Hybrid SmartNA-XL provide both failsafe TAP visibility functions with advanced packet broker features capable of accommodating speeds from 1Gbps to 40Gbps in a single unit. By providing access to monitoring tools TAPs and packet brokers facilitate traffic analysis allowing companies visibility into potential issues before they cause catastrophic failure.

2.     Don't Hold Your Breath for Full 5G

Despite widespread hyperbole and consumer marketing around the "imminent" availability of 5G services, a full 5G rollout isn't likely in 2020. 5G promises faster speeds and lower latency, enabling a variety of new technological innovations. Vendors have been quick to stake their claim on the nascent market. AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon have all promised 5G service in 2020 and there are long lists of available "5G" cities on each of their websites. However, availability is limited to specific areas of those cities and some services will only be available to business customers, while others only work outdoors. Additionally, 5G-capable devices are also limited to a select few manufacturers. 

There are also many other immediate technology challenges to fulfilling the promise of ubiquitous 5G services (spectrum availability; the development of radio, switching and virtualization standards; government regulations; and real estate acquisition for the many small cell sites needed for broad coverage). We also must consider the need for backward compatibility to 4G radios and wireline bandwidth access. Many of the switches and monitoring tools used by carriers today will continue in service for years to come.

Next year we will see 5G-like services release, but with many limitations. These services will rely on upgraded 4G services and geographically-limited 5G releases. Mobile carriers will continue to work on the panoply of technical, standards and financial issues to ultimately bring the promise of widespread 5G to market. In the meantime, organizations will rely on passive fiber optic TAPs and intelligent hybrid packet broker solutions in existing and upgraded mobile networks to capture, monitor and analyze 3G and 4G traffic. This will ensure continued, reliable services during the eventual transition to 5G.

3.     AI Tools Demand Advanced Traffic Access and Accuracy for Better Data Security

As the volume and scale of security breaches continues to grow, organizations will increasingly adopt new data security and monitoring tools that use Artificial Intelligence (AI). We'll see the role of access devices such as TAPs and packet brokers become progressively more important as these AI-enabled tools drive higher processing speed and bandwidth requirements, and depend heavily on accurate traffic data to identify issues as more traffic passes through the system.

This year, Facebook admitted that it exposed up to 600 million user passwords. We also saw FEMA come under fire for mishandling the personal and banking data of roughly 2.5 million disaster victims. And the list of reasons why data security will continue to be a top priority in 2020 goes on. Strict new government regulations like GDPR and the newly enacted California Consumer Privacy Act (which becomes effective January 1, 2020) are being implemented that impose heavy fines on businesses that do not follow data protection best practices. The pressure is on. These are some of the reasons so many organizations are adopting AI-enabled security solutions. In the coming months and years, you must be equipped to not only stop malicious intrusions, but to actually predict dangerous traffic patterns before damage is done.

Access tools can provide 100% traffic accuracy to these AI monitoring solutions, enabling them to perform more efficiently and avoid missed indicators of potential security events. But as new AI tools come to market, providing them with accurate data at increasing speeds can be much more complex and more expensive. In 2020, more organizations will utilize packet brokers such as the SmartNA PortPlus that can provide a flexible, scalable visibility architecture and support critical AI monitoring and security solutions.


About the Author

Alastair Hartrup 

Alastair Hartrup is the CEO and founder of Network Critical, a company that provides industry-leading network TAPs and Packet Brokers, which help organizations increase visibility across dynamic and complex networks. He founded Network Critical in 1997, and today more than 5,000 companies worldwide rely on its technology to help power the network and security monitoring tools needed to control changing infrastructure.

Published Wednesday, October 30, 2019 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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