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The top 5 trends redefining Enterprise Networks in 2020

7 January 2020

During 2019, you will have heard a lot about software-defined networking, 5G, IoT and Wi-Fi 6. But what lies ahead as we enter 2020? Here are our five predictions of enterprise network trends to watch. 

#1 The Rise Of The Perimeter-less Digital Workplace, And The End Of The Enterprise Island

The way we work is changing, company applications can be directly accessible via any internet connection, with faster than ever WiFi connections available nearly everywhere. With over 85% of companies operating a “virtual workplace” and on average a quarter of employees working remotely (estimated to be 43% by 2023)1, it’s not surprising that employees look for easy, interactive ways to collaborate. Whether we work from an open plan office, shared space or coffee shop many of us are increasingly frustrated by the restrictive islands of communication.

Friction-less, secure and stable connectivity is expected, particularly from digital natives who have grown up with advanced technology at their fingertips. And the IT network is set to become even more complex as Cisco estimates that by the year 2021 there will be around 27 billion connected devices and 43% of all the devices will be network-connected. BYOD and the ‘work-from-anywhere’ expectation puts a lot of pressure on already stretched network teams. We predict 2020 will see companies investing heavily in resources to safely simplify and automate network complexity.

#2 Intent Based Networking And Automation, And The Future Of The WAN

For the last three decades, network hardware has reigned supreme in a constantly evolving world of enterprise networking. But the new decade ushers in a fundamental new networking methodology that enables more business intent policy-based and automated provisioning with centralised management of network resources: network virtual appliances (NVA) and the software-defined (SD) era is coming of age.

Interest in the cloud-delivered overlay WAN architecture picked up in 2019 but it’s in 2020 that we really see SD-WAN taking flight. And it’s not hard to see why. SD-WAN enables digital and cloud transformation for enterprise networks freeing them from ‘enterprise Island'. SD-WAN – allows organisations to align their network topology and user connectivity closer than ever to the needs of the business. ‘Intent-based’ networking delivers the most efficient use of WAN bandwidth, enabling hybrid and cloud only topology with resilience and simplifies how organisations access and consume cloud based ‘as a service’ resources , cloud-hosted applications or enables access to new services in remote locations. SD-WAN reduces the time to deploy services, builds application access resilience and provides a robust security architecture enabling the traditional 'enterprise island' model to transform to hybrid and even fully cloud integrated networks.

Brad Casemore, Research VP for Data Center Networks at IDC quoted, “To fully succeed in realising their digital transformation objectives, enterprises must modernise and transform their network infrastructure. We have seen striking growth already in SD-WAN infrastructure, and there is more to come, driven by the increasingly sophisticated requirements of customers and the continuing innovation of vendors.”

#3 Network And Security Convergence: SASE

Traditional network architectures weren’t created to support the emerging digital ecosystems and can no longer provide the levels of security and control required. With most WAN traffic no longer destined to a central hub company data centre but instead to potentially multiple diverse cloud based locations and virtual networks. Companies are demanding seamless secure access for their users, wherever they are in the world, from a laptop in the office to a smartphone while on the move to a tablet on a plane there’s a need for a new perimeter-less security approach. Secure access service edge, or SASE (pronounced “sassy”), is a new enterprise networking technology category introduced during 2019 by Gartner and one we forecast will become mainstream in the next 12 months.

SASE is the convergence of WiFi,LAN, WAN, and network security methods like CASB, FWaaS and Zero Trust, into a single, cloud-delivered service model. A SASE architecture identifies users and devices, applies policy-based security, and delivers secure access to the appropriate application or data. This approach allows organisations to apply secure access no matter where their users, applications or devices are located. Gartner expects that, “by 2024, at least 40% of enterprises will have explicit strategies to adopt SASE.”

#4 The Evolution Of AAA Security Framework

For at least the last two decades enterprise networks have typically been built on a hierarchical hardware architecture comprising Core, Distribution and Access, with each layer consisting of individually managed and configured hardware devices. Enterprise networks became fortified ‘islands’ of connectivity with firewalls positioned at every entrance and exit. The tried and tested ‘triple-A’ security model (Authentication, Authorisation, Accounting) provided the framework for intelligently controlling access, and has been a suitable robust model for companies to address secure access requirements.

However, increased user mobility and a perimeter-less enterprise security model introduces a much broader set of potential security challenges and AAA is no longer enough. As we re-write the story of network security in a new decade, we suggest companies look to one of Britain’s famous authors, Rudyard Kipling, for a new methodology: The 6 honest serving men.

  • Who - Who are you really ? whats your User ID and/or device type? 
  • What – What’s the application you are using App-ID? 
  • How – How is your session going to be allowed to access that application, what encryption is needed?   
  • When – What time-based control is needed?  
  • Where – Where are you coming from and what is your destination?  
  • Why  Whare you trying to do  that – what is the context here 
#5 Embracing The New Wireless Standard: Wi-Fi 6

Every new Wi-Fi generation is prefixed by ‘bigger and better‘ hype and lots of promises. Some which are valid and others not so. With the advent of Wi-Fi 6 (officially known as 802.11ax), the level of anticipation seems to be warranted, bringing a host of speed, connectivity and security improvements over its predecessor and offering speeds at least four times greater.

It’s the first standard that has been designed with the premise that Wi-Fi is the primary connection for devices rather than a network of convenience. Wi-Fi 6 allows enterprises and service providers to support new and emerging applications on the same wireless LAN (WLAN) infrastructure while delivering a higher grade of service to older applications. This scenario sets the stage for new business models and increased Wi-Fi adoption – we see many modern businesses taking a wireless first approach and embracing the new standard in 2020.

1 Forbes – The Rise of the Truly Virtual Workforce
2 Cisco – Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast
3 IDC - Worldwide SD-WAN Infrastructure Forecast, 2018–2022
4 Gartner - The Future of Network Security in the Cloud

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Top 5 tips to select the most secure SD-WAN technology

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SD-WAN – a checklist  to get you started

Image: Canva