How network management has changed. Corporate networks were formerly about the local area network (LAN) and keeping everyone in the company connected. As the internet age appeared, stronger connections were needed to the outside world. Then Wi-Fi took hold. Companies now need to provide strong wireless LANs as well as help remote employees establish good connectivity to the network. And now edge networking is with us.
Here are some of the top trends in network management:
Edge Networking Surge
The networking edge is one of the hottest areas in networking at the moment. According to a study by Chetan Sharma Consulting on the edge internet economy, the edge economy will be a worth $4.1 trillion by 2030. This has massive implications for network management. Not only will IT have to manage the LAN, Wi-Fi, remote connections over VPNs, and other traditional duties, it will also have to be able to monitor, maintain and manage the many edge devices, and mini-data centers that are expected to emerge.
Telecom companies, for example, are investigating the possibility of edge data centers incorporated with their cell towers to be able to send data to local and central points, summarize that data, and store it for certain periods. Self-driving vehicles, too, will require massive amounts of edge services to be able to monitor the myriad factors required for safe and efficient transportation. There is also the Internet of Things (IoT) to consider. Tens of billions of new connections are being added to global networks courtesy of the IoT. That translates into a colossal need for edge processing.
The Need for Partners
As networks become more complex, as the edge evolves, and the IoT gathers momentum, it becomes increasingly evident that no one company can do it all. Thus, network management vendors are partnering with edge and IoT specialists. IT vendors are forming tighter relationships with networking vendors as they seek to prepare themselves for the needs of evolving network architectures. And businesses are looking for all the help they can get to be able to incorporate edge, IoT, and other data into their operations.
According to a study by Informa from 2021, 20% of business leaders are already searching for the right delivery partners for IoT and edge services. That number has certainly increased markedly over the past year.
Mike Mulica, CEO at Alef, is seeing more and more enterprises creating custom services using 3rd party infrastructure. These hosted functions, available as a service, are being orchestrated into a specific business logic. For example, an enterprise can access a Docker registry with many SW functions packaged as a container, that will be orchestrated into a working application using Kubernetes.
“As there is no particular device associated with the service, the network management systems are flying in a dark about service availability,” said Mulica.
Network management systems, then, will have to rise to the challenge of coping with these containerized networks.
Moving Away from Device-Focused Management
Traditional network management systems were built largely to take care of the device management function and how these devices were served over the network. The service was provided by the device, and as long the device was up and running, the service was available. But that long-term approach is being turned on its head due to trends such as virtualization, software-defined networking, the cloud, and edge computing.
“The service-device relationship is being disaggregated, and the existing network management frameworks must change with new frameworks developed and implemented that span across different layers of the stack and provide coordination across multiple domains in multi-cloud environments,” said Mulica. “Solving this problem requires understanding how hosting and connectivity work, how they are being used to create new services, which leads us to rethink network management as service orchestration.”
Hence, network orchestration vendors are seeing stronger interest in their products. Further, many of these vendors as well as traditional networking vendors are pushing hard in the as a service market to bring new kinds of networking management to the market.
AI and Analytics Driving Network Management
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being incorporated into more and more applications and workloads. But there is a major networking problem standing in its way. It takes far too long to connect AI systems to edge data. If the architecture is too centralized, it might take an hour for data to be processed locally, transported to a central AI system, analyzed, and then to transmit the findings or instructions to the point where they are needed.
That may work when you are dealing with sales forecasts for the coming quarter, but it fails miserably when real-time workloads are in play such as self-driving cars, financial fraud systems, and others. The networking change required is to enable data to be processed and analyzed at the point of creation rather than having to be transmitted to a central data center. That means edge data centers galore with large amounts of processing power.