What Will The Networks Of The (Near) Future Look Like?

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While not quite yet firmly on the stage, the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G and virtual reality all have the potential to radically change whole facets of our lives: how we communicate, how quickly we can get things done, how businesses market products and deliver services. All in all, the rapid advancement of these exciting new technologies offers significant benefits, but there is a flipside: how will data centre networks adapt to meet the needs of them, so we can utilise them to the full?

Traditionally data centre networks have worked on the premise that data travels from one point to another in a ‘fixed’ way. But IoT, the advent of 5G and development of data-heavy technologies like virtual reality will change all this, as data starts to travel across the spectrum. With the location data points start and end much less clearly defined, networks will have to adapt if they are to meet the needs of growing volumes of data traffic. How so? Here’s what the data networks of the near future could look like.

Servers out, ‘hyperscale’ and cloud in

IoT will increase the data load for companies, as connected devices require networks to work harder, and for longer. Recent research from Gartner highlights the rise of the ‘hyperscale’ data centre and companies’ increasing use of the cloud and virtualisation as they become less reliant on physical servers.

In all regions except Asia-Pacific, there is a downturn in server sales, with worldwide server revenues 1.9 per cent year-on-year and shipments falling by 0.6 per cent in the final quarter of 2016. Jeffrey Hewitt, research vice president at Gartner, said: "Hyperscale data centres (eg Facebook, Google) grew and, at the same time, drove some significant server replacements. Enterprises grew at a lower rate as they continued to leverage server applications through virtualisation and in some cases, service providers in the cloud."

Research published by Synergy Research Group showed the number of hyperscale data centres is set to reach the 300 mark, driven by new data centres opened by big digital firms including Amazon, Google and Alibaba. By the end of 2018, there are set to me more than 400 hyperscale data centres around the world.

The rise of the smart network

IoT and 5G technologies are ‘smart’, so they’ll need to be managed by a ‘smart’ network too. This means one that is agile, flexible, artificially intelligent and analytical. For networking and data centre expert Arthur Cole, writing for Enterprise Networking Planet, networks will need be backed with a “highly sophisticated management stack” that is built around four key criteria: “Visibility, predictive analytics, comprehensive management and convergence.”

“A single network with state-of-the-art switching coupled with remote management and in-depth intelligence gathering is the only way to ensure that smart devices will make smart decisions,” he said.

Scale rapidly

If the forecasters are correct, there will be an estimated 50 billion IoT devices globally by 2020. That’s an awful lot of connected devices asking an awful lot of the networks designed to help run them. 5G will need to be backed with networks that can deliver high-speed communications that don’t falter at the first sign of extra bandwidth use.

The networks of the near future will need to be ones able to scale rapidly to support the deployment and use of these billions of devices. For some companies that will mean more investment in servers, or buying up additional space when needed. For others, it will mean evolution into cloud and virtualisation-based servers.


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