What To Expect From Networking In 2017

Each year we try to lay out what businesses should expect in the upcoming year in the networking market. This year we expect to see a lot of changes as the traditionally conservative networking market begins to feel the pressure of years of networking status quo and resistance to change. This is our view of the more significant impacts to track. JF5 (Photo: 123RF/com/Maksym Chornii)
  • SD-WAN comes of age. We have been saying that software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) is the easiest way for businesses to put their toe in the software-defined networking (SDN) pool for some time now. Even carriers are getting involved, teaming up with SD-WAN vendors to provide solutions. With the maturity and breadth of choice for products, we think that most companies will either be deploying or working with SD-WAN in 2017. At the recent ONUG meeting, 2017 was declared “the year of SD-WAN”, so this feels like a no brainer to pick as a top trend for 2017. But the real SD-WAN news will not be the number of deployments, it will be the consolidation in the industry as the business begins to develop and the competition heats up. While there are 30+ smaller players in the market, by the end of 2017 we’ll start to see some consolidation begin to occur.
  • Open source expands its footprint. We’ve seen a lot of expansion of open source being driven by initiatives like OpenDaylight and OPNFV focused heavily around telecom (carriers) and cloud service providers. But we are starting to see more of these open source projects finding strong support in traditional enterprise companies. More IT organizations are now not only depending on open source but also providing code updates back into the projects. In recognition of the importance of open source in networking, the Linux Foundation recently brought on a new leader to focus specifically on networking, an acknowledgement of the importance of this software movement within networking.
  • Orchestration is the next collision point. As businesses need to be more agile, they are turning to SDN as a mechanism to help manage their networks. But for open networking to truly be as effective and flexible as these businesses demand, orchestration needs to be put in place for the network to truly “move” with the needs of the business. This reality is something that becomes more apparent as people begin deploying, exposing the need for automation. Currently there are multiple orchestration paths, from the open source (Open-O and OS-MANO) to the hundreds of available commercial orchestration tools. Standards for orchestration will help drive the adoption of SDN, even if it simply starts with some common nomenclature and interfaces. We don’t expect the world to settle on one orchestration platform, but for this year we see the forces in play to drive more interoperability amongst the choices.
  • Security will drive almost every decision. Based on the recent track record for security (even if you just focused on the compromises between Yahoo and the 2016 US election), this issue is on everyone’s mind. For 2017 we believe that almost every networking purchase decision is going to have an associated security aspect. More importantly, security may become a driver for SDN adoption. Businesses that need to have a more flexible security apparatus may make the plunge into SDN and NFV to achieve that greater level of flexibility as they try to stay ahead of the looming threats. Any vendor not leaning into the security benefits of their product will find it harder to get through the door for most opportunities.
  • Numbers will matter. We expect to see continued margin degradation in the network switching business as more functionality moves to software, leaving hardware less differentiated. Additionally, the market disruption and changing landscape will accelerate; lawyers will be busier in 2017 as mergers, spinoffs and partnerships will take the forefront. IP will change hands (like Brocade and Broadcom) and smaller players will be snapped up because of their SDN capabilities (like Nuage Networks and Nokia). Networking will be in the business news as much as it will be in the technical news if not more.
  • Consumer Wi-Fi is getting intelligent. We’ve had intelligent controller-based Wi-Fi in commercial settings for quite some time now, but consumer choices have been lacking. Traditionally, a single access point provided coverage for part of the home, but with connected IoT devices and the need to be able to cover all areas of the house, a single device no longer works. Expect to see several wireless mesh systems that help address this situation as home Wi-Fi becomes more critical and heavyweights like Google jump in the game. Because more enterprise technologies are filtering down into consumer networking, Moor Insights & Strategy will be starting up a consumer networking practice in 2017. This practice will cover disruption in this market as vendors look to the changing landscape of consumer networking.
Across the board, it looks like 2017 will be just as interesting as 2016 turned out to be, so buckle yourself in for a fun ride this year.
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