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Growing Cloud Adoption: The Future of Network

This is the final post in a three-part series where we’re taking a closer look at various cloud-related solutions, what’s trending, and partner expectations as we head into 2020.

By 2020, the number of connected devices across all technologies will reach nearly 21 billion. -Gartner

In today’s digital business, the network is essential; from optimizing customer experiences and maximizing employee productivity to keeping data secure, the network is a foundational components to an organization’s success. Today, the network is experiencing perhaps its biggest evolution since the dawn of the Internet, which is creating both opportunities for innovation and challenges for IT leaders and their teams.

With innovation comes new avenues of growth, and network is no exception; not just cloud computing, but SD-WAN as well as edge and fog computing, are all positioned to see massive growth through 2020 and beyond. It is unlikely that the future of network infrastructure will reside exclusively in either the cloud or on the edge; rather, as companies continue to transform their businesses, they will become more effective at incorporating more than one model to overcome shortfalls and leverage the advantages of each.

cloud-edgeWhat does that mean for partners? Educating yourself about various networking solutions, their pros and cons, how they coexist not just with each other but with the customers' current infrastructure to advise them on what's best for their specific needs is crucial to success.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the primary drivers of innovation in network solutions; these technologies provide the connectivity required to power IoT devices. In fact, IDC predicts that the total amount of data created by IoT devices in a single year will exceed 79 zettabytes (79 billion terabytes), a clear indicator that 2020 will be a critical year as solution providers continue their build-out of the infrastructure needed to support IoT applications—from servers to sensors. 

With the growing prevalence of technology such as smart meters in both residential and commercial markets, Gartner reports, the utility industry is currently the largest user of IoT endpoints, with over 1.5 billion endpoints projected by next year. On the other hand, Gartner also predicts that connected lighting will be the primary growth-driver for IoT endpoints in 2020, experiencing an increase of more than 40% (440 million endpoints). Following that, automotive and government are the next-fastest growing sectors, both expected to grow more than 30% next year, with healthcare, manufacturing and retail also expecting to drive double-digit growth.

"Data becomes the common denominator—as it is captured, processed, and used from the nearest and farthest edges of the network to create value for industries, governments, and individuals' lives," Carrie MacGillivray, Group Vice President, IoT, 5G and Mobility at IDC, said in a statement. "Understanding the amount of data created from the myriad of connected devices allows organizations and vendors to build solutions that can scale in this accelerating data-driven IoT market."

With that in mind, let’s talk about the various technologies that will form the future of networking: SD-WAN, cloud computing, edge computing, fog computing, and 5G.

SD-WAN

SD-WAN adoption is on the cusp of explosion, with IDC forecasting revenues that will exceed $5 billion by 2023. Large providers such as AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, and Verizon have all designated SD-WAN as a leading strategic solution with their corporate customers.

Because so many businesses are rethinking their network infrastructure, planning to expand to new markets or increase their network traffic, both SD-WAN and secure SD-WAN managed services are already a major solution for the channel.

Although SD-WAN technology is just now approaching maturity, Aryaka’s 3rd Annual State of the WAN Report indicates that enterprises are demanding more of their WANs than ever before; roughly 30% are operating more than 20 branch offices globally and about half are leveraging five or more SaaS applications or cloud providers.

The report found that organizations encountered a wide variety of challenges associated with their WAN deployments, including maintenance and management, cost, and access speeds to both SaaS applications and cloud services. This has businesses rethinking their traditional WAN strategy due to the added need for high performance, particularly around latency-sensitive applications such as UCaaS.

Secure access service edge (SASE) is highlighted in Gartner’s 2019 Hype Cycle as the next wave of SD-WAN, converging the WAN edge and network security into a cloud-based, as-a-service delivery model. Although SD-WAN has already hastened the path to network convergence, SASE goes a step beyond by blending elements of both SD-WAN and network security into a single cloud-based service.

By its innate definition, SASE is cloud-delivered, which allows organizations to quickly deploy any network or security service anywhere they are needed, including not only branch offices but also mobile workers, the cloud, edge computing locations, and IoT endpoints.

While the SD-WAN market continues to accelerate, the complexity of managing and integrating disparate networking and security technologies has presented numerous challenges for non-early adopters to migrate. By bringing together security and networking via the cloud, SASE simplifies the architecture, making it rapidly scalable. Over the next five to ten years, SASE adoption is predicted to increase as the security and integration demands of next-generation networks continue to rise.

Cloud Computing

According to Statista, worldwide spending on the public cloud started the decade at $77 billion and is predicted to conclude it at $411 billion – a fivefold increase. Despite this, not every business has made the move. According to Forrester, though, while the impact of the cloud has been global, less than half of all enterprises are using a public cloud platform.

Where then does cloud computing fit in, and what exactly is it? In a cloud computing architecture, all data is gathered and processed in a centralized location—typically a data center—and any devices that require access to this data or the use of associated applications must first connect to the cloud. Since everything is centralized, the cloud is typically easy to control and secure while still allowing for reliable, remote access.

By storing assets and information in a centralized cloud, enterprises ensure that authorized users can get access to the data and applications they need anytime and from anywhere. For organizations that rely on more traditional client/server networks, public cloud services such as AWS (Amazon Web Service), Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure provide huge benefits.

Cloud computing enables large-scale data analysis that would not be possible at the network’s edge. The cloud, with its incomparable processing and storage potential, can gather vast amounts of data and analyze it in innumerable ways, producing valuable trends, insights and solutions. Cloud computing’s data analysis capabilities have even enabled artificial intelligence and machine learning to become significantly more viable. 

While the centralized location of the cloud makes it difficult to process data gathered from the edge quickly and efficiently (think what a huge difference a fraction of a second's delay could make for an autonomous vehicle responding real-time to its environment), it makes up for the lack of speed with power and capacity. And, since cloud computing is based on a scalable data center infrastructure, storage and processing capacity can be expanded on-demand, which is a benefit for businesses that need or want to expand rapidly.

Although IoT devices represent a vast new frontier, not all data or applications should be moved to the edge of the network; cloud computing will continue to be a beneficial resource and offer better service and security for both traditional data centers as well as a variety of as-a-service providers.

Edge and Fog Computing

Edge computing is usually used to describe how devices along the edge of the network manage the data they produce; it can also more widely refer to the concept of pushing both processing and data storage closer to the data’s point of origin. In a true edge computing architecture, intelligent devices serve as additional storage and processing points in the network, managing data locally to improve speed by further reducing the bandwidth strain on the network.

Innovations in computer processing have enabled IoT devices to do more than simply passively collect data . With edge computing, the physical distance data has to travel before it can be applied is reduced, taking some of the burden off of data centers or servers; this significantly decreases latency and offers unrivaled flexibility, specifically for enterprises that depend on real-time data.

Fog computing, on the other hand, expands the reach of a cloud network by employing localized data centers—fog nodes—to process and store data closer to the source. A fog computing architecture collects data from devices along the edge of the network and transmits it to the local fog node for storage and processing. The fog node determines what data needs to be relayed back to the network's central cloud server and what should be processed locally; this reduces the bandwidth strains on the network by keeping non-critical data on the outskirts. Fog nodes help improve the overall network performance by acting as the gatekeeper, discriminating and prioritizing data and determining what needs to bounce to the central cloud server and back.

Fog and edge computing are typically complementary to one another; most well-designed edge computing architectures make use of fog nodes to create an often-complex network that manages data in the most efficient possible way. The integration of fog and edge computing, together with cloud computing, allows organizations to prioritize the data that flows through their network as well as establish clear guidelines that define where the data goes and when.

As IoT devices continue to become more versatile, they create new opportunities for edge and fog computing, pushing them further than anyone thought possible. With smart IoT devices becoming a mainstay in nearly every industry, they have solidified their place as a vital piece of many companies’ future data strategies.

Even for those companies that don’t depend heavily on IoT devices, the speed and reliability of edge and fog architecture shouldn’t be ignored when planning for future data requirements. By combining the data-gathering power of edge computing with the storage and processing capacity of the cloud, organizations can help improve their services and drive innovation without sacrificing valuable analytical data that has the potential to grow their business and drive innovation.

The emerging category of edge computing has been steadily rising in importance and maturity, and 2020 will be the most interesting year yet. More than 50% of mobility decision-makers surveyed in the Forrester Analytics Global Business Technographics® Mobility Survey, 2019, said they have edge computing on their roadmap for the next 12 months, which is significant when considering how recently edge computing arrived on the scene.

5G

The fifth-generation of wireless technology, otherwise known as 5G, which is steadily working its way into our lives, promises faster download speeds, extremely high network reliability and stands to make a huge impact on daily life for both consumers and businesses alike, in particular when smart cities and self-driving cars are an actual possibility—or maybe an inevitability—rather than a Saturday morning cartoon.

While most of the speculation about the near-limitless opportunities 5G represents has been focused on the consumer, in truth, they pale in comparison to those of businesses, as consumer demand alone would never justify the gargantuan cost of building out a 5G system. The capacity and speed of 5G is so great, it will significantly exceed the capabilities of most consumer devices.

That leaves the incredible impact 5G stands to make on both the IoT and the IIoT (Industrial Internet of things) as a result of a combination of its reduced latency, energy savings, high data rates, cost reductions, and high system capacity. 5G sensors connected to things such as wind turbines, locomotives, and heavy machinery will enable faster and better-informed business decisions. And, with the vast amounts of data that 5G is designed to accommodate, it will inevitably converge with edge computing to bring new capabilities while generating massive amounts of data—all at lightning speed.

The ability to capture vast amounts of data from remote sensors and various other connected devices and subsequently move it into the cloud or a data center where machine learning or artificial intelligence can be applied promises to permanently change the business landscape.

5G will also provide new network-management capabilities in the form of network slicing, which enables multiple virtual networks within a single, physical 5G network; these numerous virtual networks enable both IT departments and providers to better support business needs and data-intensive processes.

What Does it All Mean?

Cisco research indicates that while IT leaders and strategists express confidence in their teams’ abilities to address future network challenges, with one third believing them to be extremely well-prepared to meet all the needs of an advanced network and 40% feel well-prepared, that does not negate the need for a well-educated partner to help IT departments of all sizes—from enterprise to SMB—to identify the combination of solutions and providers that best meet their specific needs.

As we head into the new decade, network technology will continue to advance exponentially. Without keeping abreast of current trends and educating themselves on the various solutions and architectures, partners stand to lose out on a significant and consistent stream of revenue. Network sales will never be one-and-done; they constantly require maintenance, expansion, and upgrading, and TBI is committed to keeping our partners on the cusp of what's next in network technology.

For more insight on how to speak to various executives about their digital transformation, check out this month’s white paper, The Mindset of the New IT Buyer: Addressing all stakeholders at the buying table.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Marketing Communications Manager, Amanda is responsible for creating content and carrying out internal and external communications programs; she also develops educational materials to enable TBI’s partners to sell emerging solutions. Amanda also contributes to ensuring consistency with branding and ensuring TBI provides useful and relevant content to our partners. You can reach Amanda at ajohnson@tbicom.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.