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5 Key Enterprise Networking Trends for 2021

18 December 2020

After the year we have had who’s to say what 2021 will hold? 2020 threw up a lot of challenges in terms of supporting remote secure networking, so let’s take a look at 5 of the key enterprise network trends we anticipate will be on your radar in 2021.

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)

SASE will move firmly into the mainstream. SD-WAN is still an important element of the infrastructure, but it has morphed to some extent into SASE. Key acquisitions of CloudGenix by Palo Alto Networks and Opaq by Fortinet have highlighted the growth of SASE and Cisco has also embraced SASE after initial hesitancy. This endorsement by key network and security vendors has meant that what may have been seen as yet another Gartner 'marketecture’ is now regarded as a mainstream network design approach. The forced shift to remote working has also accelerated SASE adoption, as cybersecurity and networking continue to converge in physical infrastructure with routers and firewalls in one end point such as the Meraki MX.

Zero Trust Networking

The need for Secure Remote Networking makes a Zero Trust approach a requirement and not a merely ‘nice to have’ feature. Zero Trust places identity at the perimeter so that access is the exception and not the rule. With more workloads than ever in the cloud Zero Trust networking has become a key pillar of any robust security environment. This holistic approach to network security where identity is the perimeter with applications and data appearing across public and private cloud and on-premise Data Centres may become more prominent in 2021.

Cloud-based WAN

In 2021 we will also see vendors like Microsoft and Palo Alto Networks accelerate their cloud WAN solutions that make routing decisions based on the application as a destination, instead of the IP address. This may signal the start of the slow death of IP Address routing. For example, Azure WAN gateway integrates with all the major vendors like Cisco Meraki, Fortinet and Palo Alto Networks to act as an path to Azure cloud services (such as AAD, DLP, Azure Sentinel, etc.) and provide a single operational interface. With Microsoft Active Directory available in the cloud, you can authenticate your users anywhere at any time, and take the load off your physical servers. With the majority of organisations using Windows and Microsoft products, Azure as a platform now provides a complete ecosystem for its customers. This will likely continue to be successful because ease and accessibility will always be a priority.

The Office Reimagined

In 2021 office life won't be the same. We will have moved further towards hybrid office and WFH operations as the nature of work shifts. The office is evolving from a place you work to a place to go to meet and collaborate. More emphasis will be placed on the value of shared spaces and easy communication. Currently, “over 85% of companies [are] operating a “virtual workplace” and on average a quarter of employees [are] working remotely (estimated to be 43% by 2023)” (Ideal). This functional evolution in the way we view offices and communication will mean additional video, voice and Teams traffic, and ensuring a good Quality of Service (QoS) will become imperative to support effective virtual collaboration.

5G and WiFi 6

The world slowed down in 2020, but it's set to be faster than ever with 5G and WiFi 6 in 2021. “5G and Wi-Fi 6 bring a promise of dramatically better performance to consumers, mobile workers and organizations”(Cisco). 5G has been promised for a while, but it is imminent and will further accelerate remote working capabilities. This year has highlighted the need for speedy, reliable and flexible network capabilities. 5G is the ideal progression for remote workers. Similarly, as working at home looks set to continue, the office becomes somewhere you go to for collaboration, and WiFi 6 will offer the flexibility and speeds to support these new ways of working.

In our opinion these are 5 of the key 2021 networking trends that you should keep in mind when considering your future networking needs and wants.