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A greater emphasis on cloud-first architectures will continue as companies evaluate what will be required post-pandemic.

February 11, 2021

4 Min Read
2021 Predictions Crystal Ball
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By Shashi Kiran

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Shashi Kiran

As this year ramps up, it’s time to reflect on what we’ve learned and how we think that knowledge will impact us in the coming days. I’ve included my top 5 predictions for what the network will have in store for us in 2021.

A greater emphasis on cloud-first architectures to accommodate a distributed workforce will continue as companies evaluate what will be required post-pandemic. Features will include operation simplicity, a consumption-based approach focused on agility, converged networks and emphasis on security. My predictions:

Continued Migration from ‘Office Worker’ to ‘Anywhere Worker’

The 2020 pandemic accelerated the evolution of the workplace for enterprises in a way that would normally be considered disruptive. CIOs quickly adapted to get an employee workforce that was accustomed to an office setting into remote work-from-home environments. In the coming year, I’m optimistic that employees will return to their offices in phases, but enterprises will continue to offer the flexibility of hybrid workplaces. Some employees may end up relocating or working remotely permanently. The real trick in the coming year will be for CIOs to ensure their remote workforce has the same predictable application performance as those workers who decide to go back to the office. There will be focus on both flexibility and productivity. So, tech solutions that embrace hybrid with consistency will flourish.

Continued Migration from MPLS to a ‘Cloud-First’ Approach to the WAN

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) has been the de facto standard for wide area network (WAN) deployments for close to 20 years. The problem is that most of the relevant applications workers rely upon today are cloud-based and MPLS wasn’t designed for that kind of dynamically changing environment. Procuring and provisioning MPLS circuits through traditional carriers is time consuming, with time frames that can run into several weeks, if not months.

Enterprises working toward digital transformation are better serviced adopting a consumption-based approach, something we’re calling a “cloud-first” WAN. Cloud-first WANs are focused on agility and being able to gracefully adapt to change management. A cloud-first WAN is intended to make the network and network security constructs easy to consume “as-a-service.” The concept revolves around combining operational simplicity with a positive user experience without compromising application performance or productivity.

Networking, Security Converge in the Rise of Managed SASE

Security and networking are like two peas in a pod, but in the real world, these two areas have traditionally been siloed. We have recently been seeing a convergence of these two areas — particularly in the context of network security — and it is happening on-premises as well as in cloud-delivered models. In the coming year, I believe we’ll see service edge nodes or customer premise equipment (CPE) devices continue to converge virtualized network and security elements for operational simplicity and lower total cost of ownership. This will enable the move toward centralized policy application, management and monitoring.

Gartner suggests secure access service edge (SASE), with centralized policy definition and enforcement, is further accelerating the convergence of network-as-a-service and network security as a service for both on-site deployments as well as ,,,

,,, remote access solutions. Just as the growth of managed SD-WAN has accelerated when compared with do-it-yourself (DIY) deployments, managed SASE may also be the preferred option as enterprises gravitate toward operational simplicity.

The Rise of 5G

In the next few years, we will see the proliferation of 5G. The advantages of 5G include faster transmission speeds and lower latency. The speeds we’re talking about are theoretically 100 times faster than 4G. I believe this will enable a new class of applications that are built to consume this spectrum. I can envision a new class of industrial-grade applications that include opening opportunities that leverage AR/VR and high-definition video streaming, enabling organizations to blur the boundaries between their LAN and WAN.

AI, ML Will Be Put to Broader Use on the Network

The volume of data we’re seeing from the edge, internet of things (IoT) devices, remote access and the edge has been steadily increasing over the last year. What’s more, privacy requirements and data regulation are becoming more fragmented. In the coming year, I believe we will see the dawn of new applications that are able to understand this data and provide valuable insights. An example of this new artificial intelligenceI/machine learning world are new intent-based tools and platforms at the edge and in the cloud, along with automation at scale. Innovative providers will use ML/AI to get predictive analytics, detect patterns and deliver greater value to their service.

Shashi Kiran is the chief marketing officer at Aryaka Networks, responsible for its global marketing, product management and technology partnerships. He brings more than 20 years of experience in the tech industry across marketing, product management, business development and partnerships. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @netkiran or @AryakaNetworks on Twitter.

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