2018 is shaping up to be the Year of WAN Transformation. Rapidly evolving market forces and relentless innovation are shifting Digital Transformation into high gear and driving mass adoption of cloud, mobility, and IoT within businesses of all sizes and across many industries. All of these changes are stretching legacy WAN infrastructures to their breaking point in terms of volume, velocity, and a variety of connected endpoints.
Here are some of my predictions as we head into 2018.
- Gigabit LTE will go mainstream
While of lot of attention is being paid to 5G right now, the real story for 2018 is Gigabit LTE. It’s commercially viable today, requires minimal carrier infrastructure upgrades, and addresses the broadest use case — greater wireless WAN speed and throughput. Look for Gigabit LTE services to be available within NFL cities and beyond next year.
Speaking of 5G, as 5G services emerge from market trials, we will see several leading cellular carriers launch commercial 5G fixed wireless services in 2018.
With Gigabit LTE and 5G services becoming a reality next year, coupled with the rapid parallel rise of SD-WAN, it’s safe to say that 2018 will usher in a new wireless WAN era.
- Consumer-grade IoT devices will enter the enterprise
The same trend that drove adoption of the iPhone and Dropbox into the enterprise will drive adoption of consumer-grade IoT devices into businesses of all size. Most of these will come in the form of security and surveillance devices, which will lead to disastrous security outbreaks and breaches. These surveillance devices, along with a wide range of sensors, will create a deluge of data – nearly 600 Zettabytes (ZB) by 2020.
Given the vulnerability of consumer-grade devices and the explosion in WAN traffic, IT will look to Software-Defined Perimeter technologies to provide access control and isolate IoT devices from each other and existing networks to shield them from being Internet accessible.
- Shake-up of the SD-WAN landscape will continue
Acquisitions of WAN-focused SDN vendors are on the rise, starting the with acquisition of Pertino by Cradlepoint in 2016 and the recent acquisitions of VeloCloud by VMware and Viptela by Cisco in 2017. This trend will not abate as the SD-WAN vendor landscape shakeout continues into 2018 with more vendor consolidation and segmentation.
Over the next year, we will see the SD-WAN market evolve into three types of solution approaches:
- The consolidated edge will focus on virtualizing and simplifying the WAN Edge infrastructure within branch-oriented networks by consolidating hardware appliances (WAN+LAN), policy and security domains, and management systems.
- The unified edge goes beyond the branch to extend the value of software-defined and cloud-delivered access to all WAN endpoints, including fixed, mobile, and IoT.
- With the thin edge, all wired and wireless last-mile WAN connections are backhauled to vendors’ or carriers’ NFV points-of-presence, with or without lightweight traffic steering at the edge.
Also, as enterprise IoT takes hold along with greater workforce mobility, Software-Defined Perimeter solutions will rise as a security-centric, “companion” architecture to SD-WAN.
- Edge Computing will emerge as an essential part of the WAN edge
As the volume of data from IoT surges to more than 600 ZBs by 2020, it will produce a tidal wave of traffic across WANs to be processed and stored in the cloud. This growth will legitimize Edge Computing as an essential part of the WAN Edge in 2018 to process and analyze data where it is gathered and stored in the cloud.
Given my predictions, it’s easy to see why I believe that 2018 will go down in the history books as the Year of WAN Transformation. Going forward, enterprise WANs need an intelligent and Elastic EdgeSM that leverages pervasive wireless connectivity and software agility to connect people, places, and things everywhere — and meet the demands of the unrelenting waves of Digital Transformation.