Trend #1: The Growth of IoT Strains Corporate Networks
There are now more than 14.3 billion active Internet of Things endpoints worldwide, and experts predict 16 percent IoT market growth in 2023. To manage this expansion, organizations should deploy more Power over Ethernet ports that provide both power and connection simultaneously for remote devices.
From a management perspective, however, more devices and PoE ports create potential security and performance risks. Companies need the ability to see and manage who’s accessing these ports, when and why, and they need to understand how the use of IoT devices impacts performance across the network.
Evolving compliance regulations also play a role. Consider the Cyber Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), which provides a set of best practices required of federal contractors and subcontractors. That covers a great number of small businesses and is worth implementing for any organization. Some of these best practices include deploying physical access controls in IT rooms, regularly scanning for potential vulnerabilities and ensuring the authentication of all users.
Trend #2: Artificial Intelligence Will Make Networks Nimbler
We’re in the early days of an AI-driven transformation of corporate infrastructure that will make networks smarter, more responsive and more automated. 2024 is likely to be a big year for the integration of AI into networking solutions. Potential use cases include:
- Issue detection and resolution: By ingesting and examining data across on-premises, private and public IT infrastructures, AI tools can help pinpoint emerging issues and suggest proactive responses.
- Predictive analytics: With the capacity to “learn” as they ingest more data, AI solutions lay the groundwork for predictive analytics. For example, AI could track network usage and recommend adjustments to improve performance.
- Natural language processing: Gaining ground thanks to tools such as ChatGPT, natural language processing makes it possible for users to ask questions in plain language and have AI respond the same way. From a network standpoint, NLP already enables IT teams to ask specific questions about network performance and receive a clear and concise response from within some network management tools.
Trend #3: Companies Are Frustrated by Confusing Licensing
Licensing is also top of mind for corporate IT leaders. In part, this is thanks to the rapid diversification of product options; in addition to familiar on-premises frameworks, companies can choose cloud-based solutions or opt for professionally managed IT services.
Historically, there have been two broad licensing models: perpetual and subscription. In a perpetual model, companies pay once for permanent access. Under a subscription model, businesses pay year to year (or at another designated interval) for ongoing access. If the subscription is canceled, so is software access. While perpetual models mean a single payment, organizations may not be quick to receive new features or patches with this model. Subscription models, meanwhile, get quick access to new functions but come with ongoing costs.
To help find a middle ground, companies like Cisco, Juniper, Aruba and Extreme Networks are experimenting with different licensing models. For example, one emerging option is base-level licensing plus add-ons, in which companies pay once for common services in perpetuity, and can then add subscription-based solutions such as artificial intelligence, adaptive policy controls, or software-defined WAN technology.
Organizations can expect that the next few years will focus on improved IoT management, increasing adoption of AI and more flexible product licensing. After that, however, it’s anyone’s guess. Generative AI is a likely candidate for increased adoption, as are cloud-based network models that offer consistent control of devices and endpoints anywhere, anytime.
As a result, success is all about setting the stage. By building secure, streamlined and adaptable networks, companies are better prepared to react as evolving regulations and changing expectations define the next stage of network evolution.