Happy 2016 to all! I was fortunate enough to finish 2015 quietly with family and friends. It was a luxury I deeply appreciated. Like most of you, I spend most of the year trying to balance work with play, personal friends with professional coworkers, and family with career. It was really nice during the break to let family, friends, and myself win… every time.
I look forward to these moments of tranquility, most of all because my mind is free to wander and think without constant interruption. It is the perfect time for reflections on the past and ponderings on the future. It’s also a time for resolutions and one of my resolutions was to have more fun. Why try and balance work and play if you can just integrate it? So, why not start off the 2016 blogging year with some fun ponderings on future networking trends?
Of course, I may end up regretting this later. History is filled with people making regretful statements in the midst of transformation. Search the Internet and you’ll find examples such as Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, infamously remembered for saying, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Perhaps a pragmatic view from the status quo, but horribly wrong with the change of time.
Then there is Darryl Zanuck, co-founder of 20th Century Pictures. In 1946, he posited, “Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” Fortunately, he is remembered for much more than this one statement. For the rest of his life, this idea would seem absolutely laughable. However, I can’t help but wonder if he lived to see today. With people preferring mobile screens to TV screens for media, could he have had the ultimate “HA!” moment? Generations from now, through the long lens of history, might he be the genius that predicted the passing TV fad that spanned a mere 70 years?
We know the Internet has changed our lives. The world fits in our pocket. We video chat across the globe. We share and connect with friends instantly. Our office follows us. These are all made possible by connecting through a network. Our lives will continue to change. Transportation. Education. Healthcare. Law enforcement. All of these will be entirely different because networks will transform them. These transformations have already begun. In 2016, I expect to see the networking space specifically evolve in a few ways.
1. Even the smallest of businesses will have big IT solutions.
For the service provider, addressing the masses of small and medium businesses with advanced managed services has been tricky. The rigidity of the network made any changes very complicated and expensive to operate. The difficult economics left the lower-margin and higher-touch customers with limited selections. This year, with the introduction of more mature cloud orchestration solutions, these economic barriers will be redefined. We should see managed services become simpler, faster, and more profitably deployed through cloud-based CPE and network functions virtualization (NFV) for a growing number of use cases. The rise of the telco cloud model will allow the creation of big IT solutions - even for the little guy.
2. Analytics and automation will be key to creating better experiences.
The network has historically provided operators with traffic data, which could be used for basic planning exercises, such as forecasting growth and improving service levels. This year, superior analytics and automation technologies embedded into network infrastructure will redefine operations. Analytics will turn big and small data into valuable insights that will transform reactive policy into predictive policy. Automation will make implementation instantaneous and allow the provider to spend operating resources on more important things than the mundane.
3. Networks will be more distributed and mimic the human brain.
What is the difference between a roundworm and a human? Brainpower varies greatly from organism to organism. Neurons vary in size, but not that dramatically. The key difference lies in the ability to effectively connect larger numbers of these neurons together in a neural network that multiplies capability. The neurons perform basic functions of storage (memory) and compute (thought) in a distributed architecture. As the network improves, data center compute and storage has the freedom to become more and more distributed, mimicking the human brain. With connectivity speeds of 100G and seamless VLAN technologies becoming the norm, distribution can further improve to span large distances.
Ten to fifteen years from now, we will be living in an automated economy. Every business with a great network may not win, but every winner will have a great network. I am looking forward to a great 2016 of building the products and solutions that I believe will help get us there!