Bold Predictions for Enterprise Networking in 2024
As we approach the new year, I usually like to make a few predictions about where I feel the enterprise network is headed and how the myriad technologies it employs will be used in new and interesting ways. Now that the subscription model has firmly established itself as the dominant approach for IT consuming software and other technologies, the time has come to focus on how this model will expand beyond the traditional “cloud” and impact innovation overall.
To say that 2023 has been tumultuous would be a gross understatement. The sheer volume of change churning the global technology market is truly significant but well beyond the purview of my corner of the world, so I’ll stick to discussing the issues that I believe will impact the enterprise network and related technologies in 2024.
IT operations teams begin to crack under the strain of too many demands and too few resources
A direct result of IT’s diverse role, combined with the accelerated move to the cloud and the increasing adoption of digital infrastructure, maintaining and securing the IT infrastructure will become increasingly overwhelming for the vast majority of IT departments. The reality is that most IT organizations are trying to tackle the resource and skill gap to maintain the technology needed to deliver the pervasive and secure digital experiences we’ve now all come to expect. As a result, outside of the world’s largest companies, IT departments will continue to struggle with their existing digitization projects as they craft a realistic roadmap for adopting their initiatives, including advanced technologies such as generative AI.
The definition of Campus NaaS will crystallize for the industry, and incumbent vendors won’t like it
Few market segments are as confusing as the Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) market. Is it a managed service? A business model? A technology? All of the above? The true definition will be clarified in 2024 as customer requirements come into focus. We predict that NaaS will be defined not as a business model but as an architectural approach based on a fundamentally new paradigm for the enterprise network. This new paradigm is inherently cloud native/software-centric and delivers five key attributes:
- Based on a standardized hardware and software stack
- Provides guaranteed high performance in availability, coverage, and capacity
- Extends zero trust security to the campus and the branch
- Simplifies and automates all lifecycle management services
- Consumed as a pure subscription on a per-usage basis
These attributes will highlight the clear winners in delivering a true as-a-Service model to end customers, managed service providers, and others that hide behind simple leasing agreements. In particular, we predict that innovations under the AI Networking umbrella and relevant IT outcomes will be the next phase of evolution on top of NaaS innovation.
This provides the perfect segué for our next prediction …
AI Networking will go beyond simple network insights to deliver real outcomes
If 2023 was the year AI came into its own, 2024 will see its application spread to all aspects of IT infrastructure. This includes wired and wireless LAN and network operations overall. While AIOps is often touted as a means of providing insights into network traffic, it does little to assist IT in actually solving those issues.
In contrast, AI Networking will give IT the ability to fully automate the majority, if not all, of enterprise network operations. AI Networking will encompass Machine Learning, real-time streaming analytics, soft bots, and automation. It will include all Day -1, Day 0, Day 1, Day 2 and Day N operations. This includes everything from placing wireless access points to orchestrating software upgrades to identifying cabling issues using voltage sensors. In fact, by employing cloud native principles, IT will be able to effectively do away with the traditional need for a massive investment in a Network Operations Center (NOC) altogether, thus freeing its team to focus on higher-level priorities. As a result, the term NoOps, so often applied to cloud infrastructure, will start being relevant to the enterprise network for the first time in 2024.
2024 will see many common networking technologies replaced with new solutions based on cloud native principles
Despite the longevity of enterprise networking, certain technologies become obsolete when they outlive their intended purpose or fail to meet evolving needs. In 2024, we will see many of these once-critical networking technologies begin to lose prominence or, in some cases, move into the cloud (e.g., DHCP and RADIUS).
Virtual LANs (VLAN), for instance, were designed to segment different groups of connected devices within an enterprise network and are no longer as relevant in today's networks. Similarly, Network Access Control (NAC) solutions, designed to be deployed as an overlay to define and enforce user/device level policies, have lost their prominence.
Additionally, AIOps solutions that only provide summarized reporting and alerting may soon fade into obsolescence due to their limited benefits in driving actual results with infrastructure automation. Interestingly, we believe that SD-WAN, initially designed as a transitional technology from MPLS-based networks to IP, may soon become less relevant in the wake of SASE, as the transition is largely complete.
Taken together, these trends should result in much more powerful and productive IT teams capable of focusing their efforts on business-critical applications. Of course, 12 months is an eternity in the technology world, so I expect the unexpected at this point in my career. Only time will tell if I’m accurate, but one of my New Year’s resolutions is to start tracking my prognostications for accuracy. But no matter how they turn out, I look forward to the enterprise network market’s continued evolution. In the meantime, I look forward to engaging with many of you as we all work to build more positive outcomes for 2024. Happy New Year, everyone!
About Suresh Katukam
Suresh Katukam is the Chief Product Officer and co-founder of Nile. Internally, Suresh is endearingly referred to as the “Chief Disrupter” due to his unending drive to tackle seemingly unsolvable problems. Suresh has infused this attitude into Nile’s culture, creating a company-wide obsession to both reimagine and redefine the decades-old field of networking.
Suresh has over 20 years of leadership experience across engineering, product management, business development, and M&A from notable technology leaders including Cisco, Aruba Networks, and AWS.
Suresh’s innovative mindset is evident in his work. He has co-authored technology standards, published AI research papers, and has more than 40 patents in networking and security. Suresh has an M.B.A. from the Anderson School of Management, UCLA, an M.S. in C.S. from Arizona State University, and a B.S. in Computer Science from BITS, Pilani, India.
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