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How will a corporate network look in 2020? Will it be fixed or mobile? And how will these fixed and mobile connections maintain themselves? We look five years into the future with two experts: Chris Barnard from the research bureau, IDC, and Michael Peeters from Alcatel-Lucent.
"A lot of business managers still haven’t got the message about the importance of their corporate network. Their colleagues from the IT department have," says Chris Barnard, analyst at IDC. "A lot of modern applications, such as the cloud, social media or mobile apps all need a good network." There’s no question of how much more important the corporate network is becoming. And in the next five years, these networks are sure to undergo certain changes.
1. The further development of "All IP" services
With ‘All IP’, we are aiming at the universal protocol that future services will use. But also the fact that more and more applications will only be offered via a network. A great example is a video service like Netflix that is responsible for approximately 15 per cent of internet traffic around the world.
"While it’s currently something of a unique case," says Chris Barnard from IDC, "the underlying trend is clear. There are more and more services being offered on top of the network, and this is also true for the business world." Here Barnard specifies cloud applications as well as communication services, using the well-known Webex conference service as an example. "An operator offers connectivity, but the service itself is actually handled by a third party, in this case, Cisco. We will see more and more services develop that are separate to the original telecom network."
Michael Peeters, CTO of Wireless at Alcatel-Lucent, also sees the use of video services increasing. "These services have such an enormous impact on the network. There is a clear reason for the growing bandwidth of networks."
2. Data centres move to the outskirts
With the increasing popularity of video, it’s also important that data is readily available to end-users. "The closer the application is to the client, the better it is for the end-user,’" says Michael Peeters. This is why he sees data centres moving to the outskirts of the network. This goes against the trend of consolidation that has reigned supreme for quite some time. "Nowadays, you see big players like Facebook and Amazon setting up data centres on different continents. It’s all so that they can be closer to their clients," says Peeters. "And there’s every indication that this trend is set to continue."
3. Networks fading out
The local area network (LAN) and the external network are coming closer to each other in terms of functionality, yet according to Michael Peeters the responsibilities are remaining well separated. Peeters also sees the operator networks flowing into each other. "In the past, operators had three different networks. A fixed network for the company market, a fixed one for the residential market, and a mobile network too. These three networks are now coming increasingly close together."
Chris Barnard also subscribes to this trend for convergence, specifically where it concerns the end-user. "Look at companies. Until a year ago, the WiFi network was separate to the fixed network. But nowadays, you find one single network with one single uniform policy and approach to management more and more frequently."
4. Everything is going wireless (and mobile)
This is maybe the most controversial prediction for 2020. Wireless telephoning will be the standard, although fixed telephony will not disappear overnight. According to Michael Peeters, the future of the fixed connection will be based on the "fibre to the wall" concept with a wireless connection to the end-user. "You see that certain devices such as tablets no longer need a fixed connection point for fixed network connections. This trend will be universal for all devices with a network connection (computers, printers, etc.)," says Peeters. "The big question is still about what sort of wireless connection, and more specifically, what spectrum, will connect to the fixed connection. WiFi is momentarily not stable enough for this. This is why there are still a lot of companies that use Ethernet connections."
Besides wireless connections to fixed networks. mobile networks will also become more important. ‘The gigantic growth that we currently see in 4G will carry on, even with 5G,’ says Chris Barnard. ‘2015 is the first year where operators have made more turnover from mobile services than from their fixed networks. This trend is set to continue.’
5. Security predominantly moves to the network
Security plays an important part in all these evolutions. "It’s no surprise that security is a priority for a lot of companies. And it’s more of a priority than it used to be. And not just for people in IT, but for CEOs too," says Chris Barnard. ‘The majority of the research that we do shows that security is priority number one.’
Here, Barnard sees a role for software defined networks or SDNs. Where the management of these networks was once based on network infrastructure, it is moving more and more towards software, with a view to automating management to the best extent possible.
As a part of this, security will also be regulated by network intelligence, predicts Michael Peeters. "By using technology based around virtualisation and SDNs, data traffic will be separated a lot more quickly. As an organisation, your resistance to attacks will be significantly increased."
Inbuilt security is also important for mobile networks. "For example, a mobile network like LTE has the advantage that the data can be encrypted across the entire line," he states. ‘Security will be a very important element in the network of the future.’
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