NetworkTigers discusses the future of networking and how to prepare.
The future of networking presents a wealth of opportunities and challenges for network administrators tasked with keeping their systems effective and efficient into the next decade.
While the trajectory of technology’s evolution, especially with the exponential advancements in machine learning, is hard to predict, here are five key ways that IT professionals can set themselves up for success in the coming years.
1. Get ready for the 5G future and the expectations it will bring
The 5G revolution is in full swing and this fifth generation of mobile networking technology is paving the way for unprecedented speeds, low latency, and massive device connectivity.
IT administrators should anticipate increased demand for uninterrupted lightning-fast data transfers, the accommodation of more connected wireless devices, and real-time communications from customers and business owners alike.
To accommodate for 5G capabilities and demands, network administrators should:
- Upgrade network infrastructure. Outdated hardware will show its age when performing alongside 5G architecture. In some cases, equipment may be able to be updated or reconfigured to extend its usable life. Some gear, however, will need to be replaced to keep pace with current technology. Savvy administrators will save a great deal of money by investing in refurbished networking equipment from a reputable dealer.
- Bolster security. 5G’s connectivity upgrade offers a larger surface for threat actors to attack by providing more points of entry. IT pros should stay aware of cybersecurity trends, ensure that their security protocols are robust enough to cover a wider range of devices and upgrade/enhance any intrusion detection systems or security software that may be pushed to the limit or lacking modern features.
- Optimize the quality of service. Data-intensive, real-time applications such as video streaming, online gaming, and communications will strain networks that aren’t optimally configured and will therefore damage the user experience. Admins should carefully configure their network in such a way that critical traffic is prioritized and no users are left with subpar video quality or sluggish response times.
2. Expect a shift to software-defined networking (SDN)
Software-defined networking (SDN) is expected to increase in usage and capabilities. SDN abstracts network control from hardware, enabling administrators to manage and configure networks through software.
By providing increased network flexibility, deeper customization with regard to infrastructure, and superior security enhancements, moving to SDN will prove to be an inevitable evolution for the vast majority of networks.
To prepare for this paradigm shift, IT professionals should:
- Get familiar with software interfaces. There is a learning curve to SDN and network administrators who do not familiarize themselves with how to manage, inspect, create, deploy, and customize their system operations via software interfaces will find themselves left behind at best and creating a paralyzing mess of their workflow at worst.
- Learn how to automate efficiently. SDN sets the stage for major network automation, but the gains in efficiency can only be realized through learning how to write streamlined scripts that allow operations to run tightly. The future of networking will see automation used heavily, requiring IT teams to be well-versed in its implementation.
- Shop around for the right SDN vendor. SDN options are available from a range of vendors. Each company’s offerings should be carefully examined to ensure that the selected vendor best suits the organization’s needs. Working with a vendor that lacks the capabilities or features a company requires could leave IT departments frustrated when it comes time to scale or modify the system.
3. Embrace edge computing
Edge computing reduces latency and real-time computing capabilities by processing client data closer to its source as opposed to within a centralized data center. This new networking methodology is designed to accommodate today’s modern traffic demands in which streams of data are constantly moving at unprecedented rates and will be heavily implemented in the future of networking.
Administrators that rely solely on a centralized processing center will find themselves eventually unable to accommodate modern usage demands without performance issues.
To prepare for edge computing:
- Invest in edge infrastructure. Staying ahead of the curve keeps a network operating up to current standards and also reduces growing pains as the system expands. Edge servers should be installed in locations that will best support critical workflows and data usage.
- Design with the edge in mind. Networks should be constructed in a way that facilitates speedy communication between edge devices and centralized processing centers. Routing and bandwidth configurations must be optimized for low latency data transfers to prevent the investment in edge technology from resulting in lower returns than expected.
- Make data management a priority. Edge processing makes efficient, streamlined data management crucial. Data synchronization, backups, and recovery between central and edge servers needs to be made free of bottlenecks and other obstacles that hinder performance.
4. Prepare for future cybersecurity challenges
New technological advances in the future of networking bring forth efficiencies and greater capabilities but also create new attack platforms and more complexities when it comes to protecting data from theft or intrusion. As always, criminals should be expected to continually probe emerging technologies for weaknesses.
Network administrators should prepare for future threats by:
- Staying aware of emerging exploits: From email subscriptions and cybersecurity workshops to automated news alerts and bulletins, network administrators must remain privy to the latest cybercrime trends and activity. This is critical, as criminals frequently turn to deep fake phishing scams and social engineering campaigns that require human diligence to identify and thwart.
- Tapping into threat intelligence. Admins should use threat intelligence platforms that push updates and continually adapt to threats as they are discovered.
- Employ zero trust. The sooner zero-trust protocols are embraced, the safer an organization’s data will be. Unless criminals have a specific target in mind, they are generally opportunists who gravitate towards low-hanging fruit. The more obstacles and walls put between them and network access, the more likely they are to simply pass by in favor of an easier mark.
5. Leverage artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence is reshaping the world around us and network administrators are on the front lines when it comes to taming this emerging technology. AI poses tremendous challenges with regard to cybersecurity, but can also be used to provide system insights, make predictive analyses, and assist in automation. Any expert will assert that AI is not just the future of networking, but the future of tech as a whole.
Network pros can set the stage for our AI-driven future by:
- Allowing for optimum data collection. The strength and utility of an AI model is determined by the amount and quality of data it can inspect. Admins must ensure that their network is equipped with monitoring systems that can harness and analyze the huge amounts of data required for AI to make sound decisions.
- Becoming AI literate. IT teams need to get familiar with the concepts, terms, algorithms, and processes upon which AI models are built. This knowledge will help them create automations that suit their network’s unique demands and allow them to keep up with the rapid advancements in machine learning.
- Creating a realistic budget. AI requires a tremendous amount of data, which comes at a cost. IT departments will likely need more storage, CPUs, cloud resources, and networking bandwidth. They may also need to hire consultants to implement AI or even full-time specialists to manage systems indefinitely. Administrators should plan budgets to allow for keeping systems refreshed while preventing lapses in security or resource management while doing so.