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The future of networking: A guide to the intelligent network


Without adaptable infrastructure, an IT organization can’t keep pace with business needs. The future of infrastructure has at its foundation a software-driven, automated and intelligent network.

Introduction: Network modernization strategy

As technologists modernize their IT infrastructure, they face a host of obstacles, including legacy infrastructure, poor system integration and teams whose programming skills aren’t up to snuff.

Whether IT professionals need to deliver new applications or create a more efficient IT environment, outmoded IT gets in the way. By contrast, a modern infrastructure adapts, helping IT pros keep pace with business needs.

“If our infrastructure doesn’t keep up, our vision for where the world is going won’t be realized,” said Manoj Manoharan, director of product marketing for Ethernet services at Comcast Business, during a panel discussion on the future of networking at the Interop 2017 conference.

According to panel members, the network is at the center of a maelstrom of change taking place in enterprise data centers. The change is making its way through all levels of the stack, from infrastructure to applications.

“The network [is] in the middle of a huge disruption that’s happening in the data center,” said Ravi Amangati, vice president of engineering at Cisco Systems Inc., “when compute is being virtualized … applications are [using] a microservices-based approach, and … networking has to be at pace with all these trends.”

To create a modern and responsive infrastructure, IT teams have virtualized data center infrastructure, from servers to storage to networking. Combined with analytics, virtualization helps the network stand up to new demands.

As hardware becomes virtualized and programmable through software, IT teams need the skills to enable integration – and the hardware needs to be able to integrate. How IT professionals choose their tools and design their IT environments to be automated, virtualized, programmable, secure and scalable will surely be the difference between success and failure.

Security, in particular, has become a key concern. As new devices are introduced to the network, and as companies connect to branch offices, technology professionals need to secure the entire IT continuum, from the network periphery to the data that travels on the network to mobile devices and sensors connected via the Internet of Things. As these devices proliferate, the attack surface only widens, and companies need to develop a continuum of security processes that protect the perimeter, content that carries sensitive data, and the data in motion and at rest.

In this guide to the future of networking, we look at some of the key areas in which network modernization is taking place, including SD-WAN, which enables branch office connectivity, network intelligence and analytics, networking security, and more.

Read on to learn about the future of networking.

Networking architecture design and strategy

Networking administrators have been wrestling with outmoded infrastructure for years. They need new software-driven architecture to virtualize, automate and modernize their IT environments. Here are some of the trends in software-defined networking architecture and strategy.

Article: SD-WAN shows ROI
Data suggests that SD-WAN is gaining critical mass for companies that need branch connectivity without breaking the bank. It could also bring new business value by enabling the connectivity that ushers in innovative projects.
Read about the cost-effectiveness of SD-WAN

Article: SD-WAN is everywhere (have you noticed?)
SD-WAN is working behind the scenes to create new customer experiences – even if customers don’t know it.
Read how SD-WAN is changing your everyday experience

Article: It’s legacy infrastructure if it’s not software-defined
An author argues that software-defined networking and network function virtualization have matured enough that they are enterprise-ready -- and poised to address the problems of legacy hardware.
Read why software-defined IT is eating legacy infrastructure for lunch

Article: Hyperconverged infrastructure finds its raison d’être
Enterprises building private clouds see good reason to turn to hyperconverged infrastructure.
Read why hyperconverged infrastructure is gaining critical mass.

Article: Network controller as power broker
As you move into a software-defined networking environment, the network controller, -- not the hardware -- becomes the decision-maker
Here’s why SDN shifts the locus of decision making to software

Article: SDN vs. NFV: What’s the difference?
While both architectures use network abstraction, they do so differently. Let's dig into the differences between SDN and NFV technologies.

Cisco resources

Application development and network strategy

According to a recent TechTarget IT Priorities survey, shops that use the DevOps methodology are 75% more likely to invest in software-defined infrastructure this year. That’s because the DevOps model and the software-defined concept go hand in glove. In this section, learn about application development's importance to your IT infrastructure.

C suite must champion DevOps methodology
Programmers, IT operations and security teams must cooperate to create agile, secure, cloud-ready IT infrastructure. But collaboration has to come from the top.
Learn about the role of leadership in DevOps success

Is IT infrastructure dead?
IT infrastructure could be revitalized by application development, says a networking virtualization expert.
Long live IT infrastructure! IT infrastructure is dead? Learn why both refrains are gaining steam.

The cultural shift that DevOps requires
For DevOps to take hold to the point where operations staff and developers are truly working together, some cultural shifts need to take place. You can’t automate without effective communication.
Read the column on DevOps here

Cisco DevNet

Learn how Cisco’s developer program enables developers to build Cisco-enabled applications or use application programming interfaces to manage a network infrastructure.
Check out the Cisco program for developers, DevNet

Cisco resources:

Networking and security strategy

Enterprise data security threats are becoming more prevalent -- and more costly. According to a 2016 Ponemon Institute survey of nearly 400 respondents, companies indicated that a data breach could cost an enterprise $4 million a year. The same study indicated attacks have become 29% more expensive since 2013. Learn more about considerations in building security into your networking strategy from the outset.

Article: Tips for a successful enterprise security strategy
As security risks continue to proliferate, executives need to hammer out a strategy to be prepared. Map out your security strategy with tips on the importance of understanding your adversary, making all members of the organization responsible for security strategy and deciding which kinds of risks you can accept.
Read the tips for enterprise security success

Article: The top security challenges for 2017
While cyberthreats continue to proliferate, companies’ ability to fend off attacks aren’t catching up.
Learn about the biggest security risks

Article: The IoT device security challenge
IoT devices afford new revenue-generating opportunities, but they also create new points of vulnerability for attackers to steal valuable data or take control of devices remotely.
Read more about IoT security

Report: The Cisco 2017 cybersecurity report
While 74% of companies believe they have the tools in place to combat security threats, 22% have lost customers because of security threats.
Download the cybersecurity report here

Integrating your security strategy with your network architecture
71 percent of executives have concerns over cybersecurity impeding innovation in their organizations. How can integrating cyberthreat intelligence at the outset help your organization?
Read more about embedding security strategy into the network

Cisco resources:

Intelligent networking

As the network gains greater capability, it needs greater automation, analytics and, ultimately, intelligence. How can artificial intelligence and data analytics lay the foundation for next-generation infrastructure through intelligent networking?

Article: Can IoT save Vegas?
Growing cities need new ways to solve age-old infrastructure problems. Here’s how the city of Las Vegas, and other cities suffering from ballooning population, are addressing the ills that result.
Read about smart cities infrastructure here.

App development fuels new chapter of intelligent networking
For years, the network was hardware-driven and rigid. Today, though, it’s becoming more automated and intelligent through software code.
Read why the foundation of next-generation networking lies in application development

Article: AI edges in on human intelligence
In the growing debate about AI vs. human intelligence, the given wisdom has been that AI will augment -- but not replace -- human tasks. Recent research, however, indicates that cognitive computing is approximating supposedly human skills.
Read how AI is edging in on traditionally human work

Article: Golden State Warriors use analytics to drive success on and off the court
From on-court analysis of players to sales and marketing data, the Golden State Warriors have become the team to beat in the NBA.
Read how analytics drives performance on and off the court

Article: AI and the smart home
New devices, such as IoT-enabled sensors and beacons, are creating new capabilities: turning on the lights, locking doors, setting temperature and more. But security challenges abound when connecting home sensors to the Internet.
Learn how AI is creating new capabilities and security risks right at your front door.

Article: How AI is moving in on knowledge work
Artificial intelligence-fueled algorithms automate article writing. Isn’t this the province of journalists?
Read how AI isn’t just geared toward repetitive tasks

Study: Cisco VNI study predicts explosive mobile, IoT and cloud growth
A recent Cisco study indicates that the scope of digital technology change may be broader than you think. The study predicts that machine-to-machine connections that support Internet of Things (IoT) applications are estimated to be more than half of the total 27.1 billion connected devices. Total Wi-Fi home spots will grow from 85 million in 2016 to 526.2 million by 2021.
Read the Cisco VNI report here

Article: ATTN, CIOs: AI is coming to a digital transformation project near you
Executives need to consider how to weave a meaningful AI strategy into their business plans. Here are some tactics for making AI part of digital transformation.
Read on for a practical guide to using artificial intelligence to forward business goals

Cisco resources:

Lauren Horwitz

Lauren Horwitz is the managing editor of Cisco.com, where she covers the IT infrastructure market and develops content strategy. Previously, Horwitz was a senior executive editor in the Business Applications and Architecture group at TechTarget;, a senior editor at Cutter Consortium, an IT research firm; and an editor at the American Prospect, a political journal. She has received awards from American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), a min Best of the Web award and the Kimmerling Prize for best graduate paper for her editing work on the journal article "The Fluid Jurisprudence of Israel's Emergency Powers.”