It has often been true that technology adopted in the consumer world, finds its way back into enterprises. Networking is no different. Ethernet cables, WiFi, High Speed Internet, World Wide Web all found their genesis in dorms, small offices, homes and now have made their way to the complex world of enterprise IT.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and everywhere you hear the words – Digital Transformation, Cloud, SaaS, AI, Big Data. Well almost none of this is possible without high speed, scalable networks. As we honour the amazing invention of computer networks, we attempt to look ahead into what is in store for the future of enterprise networking.
While we struggle to get adequate bandwidth, connectivity and safety on the Internet today, we believe that the future belongs to the Internet available like electricity. We have taken an electrical cable to every home, no matter how far. We have huge transmission towers to take electric current to remote villages and towns. We will soon see Internet available everywhere. The efficiency of an enterprise today depends on the availability and quality of Internet. Basic government services are unable to ramp up due to lack of internet connectivity. This cannot continue. Drones, Balloons, Satellites no matter what it takes, as a community of networking technology providers we will make it happen, we will bring the Internet to everyone.
Today networks are built using a feared construct – a network protocol. No, don’t switch off here, you don’t have to know networking to understand SDN (Software Defined Networking). Networks were built by connecting, well,…networking gear like switches, routers, firewalls and the like. However, we built these with a little brain inside each one of them, causing us to create a phenomenon called protocol convergence. As the Internet scaled, and networks became bigger and planet scale, this became a monstrous problem. Hundreds of thousands of network equipment needing to be in sync with each other. Then one day Google Uncle stepped in and said enough is enough. We witnessed the unfolding of a powerful concept around centralised intelligence and distributed data processing – SDN. Today legacy networks are being taken down, and built with low cost commodity hardware, and controlled by software in the cloud. Enterprises are tired of the complexity in networking, and moving to SDN across the spectrum. This will make networks flatter, faster, simpler, safer and really, really cheap to build and operate.
In a recent customer meeting, the IT head exclaimed that we are calling ourselves the User Experience Group, not the IT team. When prodded further he said, IT infrastructure like networking is just expected to work these days. You don’t get brownie points for making IT work. We are now challenged to improve the user experience over that IT infrastructure. How fast are the applications loading? How safe is the network? It’s all about experience. Yes, that’s the big change. The network of the future will be judged on how it impacts the user experience.
While it takes WiFi, Switching, Routing, Security, Service Providers, Data Centre networks to provide the end to end path from a user to her cloud application, the demands of the enterprise is to provide a single seamless network path. This means every network session needs to be identifiable across all elements from the last mile wireless to the virtual switch in the hypervisor where the cloud application executed. This is a big challenge ahead for networking, as all workloads are permanently moving to the cloud, causing the network to become the single biggest infrastructure challenge to complete digitisation of a business.
It takes a lot of capital to run large data networks, and provide telecom services to enterprises and consumers. However, we now have giant technology companies which need the Internet and planet wide networking to be cheap (free if possible), as their reach is literally limited only by the availability of Internet. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft are all investing heavily in making networking faster than it ever has been, and are almost owning as much network assets (be it transcontinental fiber) as large telecommunication companies like AT&T. The Net Neutrality debate will not be easy to settle, and we will find different nations taking different views.
Back when I got out of college, and ran my first Unix socket program it was magic. Data from one computer leaving over a wire, and appearing in another computer at real time speed. There is so much we can do today because we are connected, our phones, our laptops, our computers, our TVs, our refrigerators, our cars, our watches, our homes are …..ONLINE.
The human race has made ground breaking inventions throughout its time. We invented the wheel, the fire, electricity, telephone, computer. And then we invented TCP/IP and the Internet. And changed the way we communicate.
The Future of Enterprise Networking beckons us – it’s exciting, it’s fast, and it’s all software. At Lavelle Networks, we are excited to be building powerful SD-WAN solutions at the most historic moment of the INTERNET.