Three Key Networking Trends for 2016

M. Fratto

M. Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • Enterprise SDN momentum is still slow to pick up indicating that enterprises are struggling to find relevant use cases or use cases with sufficient benefit.
  • Integration capabilities industry wide need to improve including technical implementations and go to market tactics that prioritize accessibility.

I dislike yearly predictions. If I could make accurate predictions I’d be rich and living on a beach somewhere pondering my next fruit and umbrella drink. But, I can see what enterprises are asking for from vendors and how various vendors are responding to those demands. The big picture end game that creates a great vision and makes for an exciting keynote on stage pixelates when it comes to practical questions on how products and services can positively impact an enterprise. I think there are three critical changes in the market occurring in 2016.

SDN in the enterprise data center won’t hit the shaft of the hockey stick curve in 2016 because there still aren’t many compelling reasons for enterprises to move their DC networking to a new paradigm. Automation and integration with vSphere or Hyper-V is good enough for the moment. However, enterprises are exploring SDN and that’s where the potential lies. Stop talking about how mega data centers like Google and Microsoft are using SDN. Those use cases may be interesting and may provide some guidance to enterprises on what they can achieve with SDN but the use cases are so far apart that connecting the dots lead nowhere. Remember, it’s not about the network. Rather, show how your SDN product/strategy/architecture along with your integration partners—integration is critical—can improve a number of IT operations in a non-disruptive and reliable manner. Still, I think increased momentum for SDN in the enterprise is still 12 months out.

SD-WAN, on the other hand, will grow as an alternative WAN technology compared to private lines from service providers, IPsec VPN, and other WAN technology products are replaced and contracts expire. As a general observation, SD-WAN products are simple to deploy and manage; are robust and offer a variety of methods to improve application performance over the WAN and provide the features for maintaining traffic confidentiality and access control security professionals seek. What’s not to love? Competition among SD-WAN vendors will be fierce as they jockey for advantage among a dwindling set of differentiators, however, and service providers who don’t want to be marginalized to mere pipes are entering the fray with services of their own. Focus on how your SD-WAN product simultaneously improves all aspects of wide area connectivity while reducing operational overhead.

For anything software defined, the flat part of the hockey stick will be shorter if your company adopts an open API strategy—meaning the APIs are accessible to all without formal arrangements—so that integrators, other technology vendors, and perhaps even competitors can easily integrate their products with yours. “Software defined” strongly implies a set of products outside of your company’s products that can integrate into a larger whole. Open up your APIs and demand that others do as well and everyone—vendors, customers, integrators—benefits. Lock up your APIs behind gates and your product will become irrelevant and everything will stay flat except for a handful of prominent vendors.

About Mike Fratto
Mike is a senior analyst on the Business Technology and Software team covering the Enterprise Networking and Data Center Technology markets. He has extensive experience reviewing and writing about enterprise remote access, security, and network infrastructure products.

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