By David Hughes, CEO, Silver Peak
Reflecting on 2015 and looking ahead to 2016, services providers will see themes continue to gain momentum and new technology trends emerge.
Last year, it was predicted that software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN), where companies transform their network with the internet, would move quickly from initial concept to production deployments. While that has definitely happened, there are still a number of companies looking to reduce the cost and complexity of multi protocol label switching (MPLS) networking by deploying broadband connections, and this will directly impact service providers.
SD-WAN models will become the norm
Next year, SD-WAN will go mainstream. Therefore, service providers will need to move fast if they are going to reap the benefits of the enterprise WAN. The now-proven capabilities of SD-WAN means that more companies will be adopting it to bring their idle internet links to life, add broadband internet as part of a hybrid MPLS-internet WAN, or even ditch MPLS and implement dual broadband connections to the branch.
Critical for service providers is that internet WANs require multiple paths to intelligently route applications over the network.
Having multiple paths means companies can easily direct real time traffic, such as voice or video, towards the connection with the least packet loss or latency. As such, in 2016 when SD-WAN gains additional attention and momentum among organisations, service providers will have to move quickly to augment their MPLS services with some form of SD-WAN managed service offering. They will likely join a few pioneers that are already implementing this model and offering SD-WAN type services to customers.
Rise of 4G LTE deployments in the branch office
In 2016, there will also likely be more 4G LTE deployed in branch offices where organisations can quickly deliver the bandwidth remote users need either as part of a rapid, instant-on branch start up, or as a secondary connectivity to ensure uptime and always-on access to business critical applications in the event of a blackout or brownout on the primary WAN links. While priced higher than other forms of connectivity, and usually priced based on usage, 4G LTE can be an ideal solution for branch start up or fallback link technology.
What this means for service providers is that 4G LTE deployments are growing and this will give them a good return on investment. This is not least because organisations require a more flexible means of connecting remote workers and central offices via the WAN, and 4G LTE managed through SD-WAN will provide far better economic returns and capabilities than MPLS connections.
Service providers have a significant role to play in delivering SD-WAN deployments and, therefore, must ensure that they are at the forefront of the enterprise WAN transformation. Failure to do this will see them missing out on the opportunity to take advantage of the increased demand for 4G LTE.
Stronger network software revolution and NFV adoption
In 2015, the network software revolution continued and, in 2016, this will get even stronger as more network stalwarts release software versions of their legacy products. Companies on the leading edge of the network software revolution are shipping more than 75% of their products as software, and that adoption curve should continue.
While the industry continues to navigate its way through the deluge of varying SDN technologies and products, the adoption of network function virtualisation (NFV) within service providers will start to take off.
Service providers are starting to realise that they can start virtualising network functions using software today. As a result, there will be a significant increase in the adoption of NFV, independent of SDN roll outs.
Emergence of more powerful analytics and visibility techniques
Over the next year, powerful analytics and visibility techniques will also emerge as a growing trend. Indeed, as the amount of network health information collected increases, enterprises will want to identify broader usage trends and gain insight into the gigabytes of raw network data to find the ‘needle in the haystack’ when troubleshooting network and application issues.
Service providers will also play a critical role here in helping to deliver these techniques, not least because SD-WAN technology is capable of bringing agility and automation to the network. For example, if there’s a new security threat that’s emerged and a new network policy needs to be added, the entire process can be automated with SD-WANs, saving huge amounts of time, costs and risks involved when hiring an engineer to remove the security threat.
Ultimately, 2016 will be a big year for service providers as SD-WAN becomes the enterprise norm. This will be driven by the onslaught of 4G LTE deployments, the adoption of software solutions and NFV, and businesses looking for greater insight into the health of their network. Service providers must, therefore, ensure that they stay one step ahead of these trends, otherwise they could find themselves falling behind their competitors.
Silver Peak Systems designs and manufactures products for the WAN, including WAN optimisation products for accelerating application performance over long distances, and WAN connectivity products for enabling broadband Internet in branch offices.