After several years in the wild, network virtualisation has turned a corner and is likely to see more widespread adoption over the next five years. In fact, until now networks have remained pretty bland. But this is changing fast. In the new world, mobility, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Software Defined Networking (SDN) as well as Software Defined everything else ... have changed the game dramatically. While everyone from the C Level down is feeling the impacts of this change, it is the network administrators who are finding their roles increasingly demanding. According to IDC the SDN market in Asia Pacific alone will grow from $6.2 million in 2013 to over $1 billion by 2018.
Today, it is no longer just about keeping the lights on, network administrators are tasked with monitoring increasingly diverse environments while upskilling in the process. The time has come for a major change in the way networks look and run.
Over the next five years we are going to see networks continue to evolve at speed. Here are some of the changes we expect administrators will experience between now and 2020.
1. Less time troubleshooting
Currently network administrators still spend the majority of their day troubleshooting. There are ways that this process can be improved. In order to achieve this we need to use the data that exists to free up administrator’s time. The current applications we have running already hold a lot of data and a lot of context, it's just that they don't bubble it up to administrators like they could.
What we will begin to see is an environment where systems become better at detecting problems, and can mine a knowledge base to arm the administrator with enough information to fix problems much faster. The future will see administrators that are steeped in automated intelligence: where an emailed alert not only describes a present problem but also includes details of similar past incidents and recent configuration changes that could be related.
2. Greater ability to resolve potential problems before they arise
With the development of advanced network management capabilities also comes the ability to run more automated systems able to tap into a historical knowledge base when problems arise. It is not out of the question that the same system be used to predict problems – before they occur. Every business is interested in the ability to have their systems effectively take care of themselves with a greater degree of automation. There is an emerging need for technology that distinguishes from simply alerting administrators to problems, to alerting, fixing, and escalating a notification when conditions are ripe for an issue based on historical context.
3. Greater Virtualisation of the Network
Between SDN, network function virtualisation (NFV) and virtual overlay technology like VMware NSX, administrators are beginning proof-of-concepts in greater numbers. But network management and monitoring tools will also need to evolve. All tools that make up that portfolio of network management need to be aware of the construct of what network virtualisation is and the specificities it brings. There's a level of awareness that the tools will need to bring in to stay relevant in this more hybrid and software-defined world.
4. Increased connectivity across devices
A recent Australian SolarWinds survey found IoT would bring “significant complexity” to network structures over the next 3-5 years. While definitions vary, the concept of IoT is really about connecting and networking unconventional things and turning them into data collection points.
Think everything from sensors in wheat paddocks and oyster beds to connected cars and home appliances. A lot of these 'things' are testing where we might consider the boundaries of the network edge to be – and where that data processing needs to take place.
With the scale of IoT it's not possible to get everything completely centralised, so there's a natural tendency to make processing more decentralised and push it to the edge. In its current form it is a fine model, but if you look at technology trends in general, you’ll see a pendulum going from centralised to distributed back to centralised going back to distributed. The answer lies in the middle. We need to build internal capability – staff and technology – to maintain visibility over the growing number of connected devices.