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What's Ahead for Enterprise Networks in 2017?
Posted December 27, 2016
What's Ahead for Enterprise Networks in 2017?
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By Jef Cozza. Updated December 27, 2016 5:16AM

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Redesigned WAN architecture, the spread of network function virtualization (NFV) and the expansion of software-defined networking (SDN) are only a few of the developments we can expect to see in the enterprise sector next year, according to Jeff Reed, senior vice president of Cisco’s Enterprise Infrastructure and Solutions Group.

“We are standing at the edge of a major technology shift,” Reed wrote in a blog post recently. “The past year has paved the way and set the stage for the future -- a future that is rapidly coming into clearer focus.”

Major Developments in 2017

Reed highlighted 10 major developments he expects to see in enterprise IT in the coming year. Chief among them is a significant change to the way wide area networks are designed. The traditional “demilitarized zones” at corporate data centers will be augmented, or in some cases replaced, by points-of presence hosted in cloud facilities, according to Reed.

Another key change in 2017 will be the spread of NFV from service providers to enterprises. The change will allow enterprise branches to more easily provision, chain, and scale branch network services. Internet of Things (IoT) technology is also likely to see major growth in the enterprise sector next year, Reed noted. “Now COOs are beginning to see the value that IoT can bring to the workplace,” Reed said. “This can be via intelligent lighting, location services in the workplace or connected AC systems.”

Meanwhile, SDN is already beginning to take root in the data center, and will likely move to the WAN next year. “The vision of end-to-end programmability and automation across all network domains will start becoming a reality in 2017," Reed added.

Network assurance and troubleshooting capabilities will also improve next year, thanks to developments enabled by machine learning. Both diagnosis and remediation are expected to see faster response times as more of these capabilities become cloud-enabled.

Improved Wi-Fi Driving New Services

Location-based services are also expected to increase in popularity in 2017, particularly in wireless enterprise environments. Improvements in Wi-Fi technology will give rise to new capabilities such as wayfinding and space optimization.

Wi-Fi improvements will also be factors behind the increased use of Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWF) next year. Reed said the experience of transferring calls to VoWF will improve significantly over the course of 2017.

These technological developments will also help drive increased demand for new sets of skills, Reed added. For example, organizations will increasingly be looking to hire network administrators who can also bring knowledge of deep learning or programming skills to the table.

The increase in device-level programmability, meanwhile, will lead to more programming being done at the controller instead of the device level. “This is where the real simplification, scalability and sophistication of the network happens,” Reed said. “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.”

Finally, expect low power wireless access to take off in 2017, giving rise to more IoT applications as power concerns become less of an issue.

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