Networks and enterprises may be playing catch-up in the next few years, as the pace of technological change, driven by the ubiquity of the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and increasing network demand, continues to accelerate.
Gartner predicts that there will be 6.4 billion connected devices in 2016, a 30 per cent increase on 2015. To deal with the influx of data traffic caused by digitisation, enterprise networks are growing in complexity.
So, ensuring that network infrastructure is resilient enough to cope with the pace of technological change will be high on the CIO’s agenda in 2016 and beyond. Dealing with evolving end user expectations, driven by cloud and mobility, and demands for high-bandwidth connectivity, anywhere, anytime, is an ongoing challenge.
It’s not just about businesses’ ability to operate effectively – as we saw with August 2014’s 512K day, major network outages have the potential to cause global connectivity issues with the impact felt across the society.
I expect to see network providers and enterprises working more closely together to ensure networks are robust and intelligent enough to effectively manage the demands of today and tomorrow.
Wired and wireless must work together
As networks become more complex ecosystems, they pose new security challenges. Wireless networks will continue to roll out and complement the existing network infrastructure. Technologies such as 5G can offer cost-effective alternatives for last mile connectivity and improve the quality of service for consumers on mobile devices.
However, 5G is only set to enter the pre-standard trial stage in 2016, and we are unlikely to see real-world 5G business deployments for another 24-36 months. In five years’ time, 5G may provide a viable alternative to existing enterprise networks for smaller workloads.
Yet, wired connections and physical infrastructure will never disappear for two reasons. The first is bandwidth: wired fibre-optic networks will be capable of carrying superior workloads than wireless alternatives for the foreseeable future.
The second is security. Wireless networks enable the roll out of IoT devices, which are, in many cases, inherently difficult to secure. As we see as wave of different connected devices, some containing sensitive personal data, enter this complex network ecosystem in the next couple of years, network security will become a clear priority for the C-suite.
It remains easier for enterprises to control and monitor what traffic is going out or coming in to the network when using a physical wired connection. After all, wireless is a shared medium. Anyone who is in range of the signals can capture and potentially interfere with them; unlike a wired connection where somebody would need to access the physical cable to disrupt it.
Therefore, while wireless networks such as 5G will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the enterprise in the long-term, fixed networks will remain a necessity due to both bandwidth and security reasons.
This is part 1 of my three part series on the future of work. Stay tuned for part 2, where I explore the challenges and opportunities in establishing standards for the burgeoning Internet of Things. In the meantime, please explore my previous posts, or leave a comment below.