Navigating the future: The evolution of networks

Johannesburg, 15 Feb 2024
The business model of 2025 and beyond has been irrevocably altered.
The business model of 2025 and beyond has been irrevocably altered.

In the wake of the global pandemic, the landscape of network architecture and technology has undergone a seismic shift, presenting both challenges and opportunities for businesses. As we stand on the cusp of a new era, the networks of the future are emerging as critical to the survival and success of enterprises. The evolution is palpable, and its impact is being felt across various sectors, writes Prashil Gareeb, Vice-President of Managed Networks from Dimension Data.

The business model of 2025 and beyond has been irrevocably altered. Digital transformation is no longer a choice but a necessity for survival. The relentless rise of online shopping and virtual interactions, accelerated by COVID-19, has rendered traditional brick-and-mortar models increasingly obsolete. Embracing a virtual business presence and formulating a robust digitisation strategy are no longer optional but prerequisites for relevance and competitiveness.

Below are five ways in which we’re seeing this shift taking place.

1. The rise of the multicloud

A significant aspect of this transformation is the increasing shift towards companies implementing a multicloud approach. In these cases, organisations are strategically deploying applications and workloads both on-premises and off-premises, driven by the purpose and nature of their operations.

Data sovereignty, especially in sectors like government and financial services, plays a pivotal role here in determining where sensitive data is hosted. To help achieve this, organisations and service providers are separating network functions among various service providers. This approach allows them to achieve scalability and optimise multicloud networking architecture.

2. Network integrated security

In this era of dynamic change, network security has rightfully taken centre stage. With a distributed workforce creating more opportunities for potential attack, enterprises are compelled to transition to centralised, cloud-based security solutions, such as the secure access service edge (SASE) and a managed endpoint security model.

Network integrated security is also emerging as a linchpin, with technologies like proactive detection and response, zero trust networking and identity-based security fortifying communication across networks. This end-to-end, secure-by-design approach is the bedrock of the future network.

3. Spread of WAN

The WAN (wide area network) has undergone a substantial evolution in recent times, with the acceptance of the internet as WAN becoming more widespread. The pandemic experience has sped this process up, demonstrating that the internet can serve as a reliable and cost-effective enterprise transport mechanism, reducing the demand for more expensive connectivity options.

4. Software-defined networking

Software-defined networking (SDN), a longstanding buzzword, has now matured into a transformative force. It allows for a business-outcome-based network, aligning infrastructure with business policies and rules. Intelligent networking, or intent-based networking, has become the rallying cry for networks of the future. These networks incorporate automation, programmability, predictive analytics and orchestration to proactively adapt and optimise.

5. Intelligent networks

The future promises self-healing and self-optimising networks leveraging AIOps, automation and orchestration. The agility of intelligent networks positions organisations to adapt swiftly to market changes and cultural shifts, ensuring resilience and competitiveness.

The changing face of campus and branch networks reflects this ongoing transformation. Legacy infrastructures are giving way to more automated and intelligent networks fuelled by SDN practices. Proactive monitoring and measurement through detailed and predictive analytics are enhancing user experiences, while the adoption of automation helps bridge the skills gap caused by trends like "the great resignation".

Yet, amid this promising future, enterprises grapple with operational concerns. The inherent complexity and intelligence of modern networks pose challenges for internal operations teams with limited programming skills. AIOps and automation, while simplifying ongoing network operations, present complexities in deployment and configuration.

As we gaze towards the future, one thing is clear: the networks of tomorrow are not just technological infrastructures; they are strategic assets shaping the destiny of enterprises. Navigating this requires a commitment to continuous innovation, adaptability and the embrace of intelligent networking solutions that promise not just connectivity but resilience, security and agility in the face of an ever-evolving digital landscape.