All new years are full of bright promises and high hopes. In some cases, those aspirations are met. In others, those hopes are dashed. Only time will tell.
But predictions are always interesting. What lies ahead for 2018? How much of the hype will be realized and how much will fade away? Telco Transformation reached out to service providers, vendors and analysts to get an idea of what the year ahead might bring. Their responses, which are slightly edited for clarity, follow.
Windstream: SD-WAN goes lite
Mike Frane, Windstream
"Already well-entrenched in the enterprise space, it's very likely that the coming year will see the emergence of light-weight SD-WAN offerings that target small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs.) While single-site customers have shown a willingness to embrace SD-WAN, not all customers need the full set of features and functions typically provided by current solutions. If standard offerings tailored to SMB requirements arrive with lower price tags, we should see single-site and small network SD-WAN adoption accelerate even faster.
"Moving up to mid-market and large enterprises, 2018 will likely see an acceleration of network function virtualization and 'white box' or universal CPE while we will continue to see smaller-sized locations for deploying separate hardware appliances for the various network functions. As production ramps up and software and hardware costs make it more economical to deploy multiple network functions on commodity hardware, white box CPE deployment will become more commonplace. In the 2018-2019 timeframe, we anticipate more sophisticated analytics and machine learning technology making its way into the SD-WAN arena.
"Finally, we should start to see more service chaining from cloud service providers and managed network service providers, deeper integrations with cloud applications, and greater incorporation of SD-WAN technologies into established hardware vendors' mainline product portfolios due to M&A-driven consolidation and general acceptance of the technology.
"Regardless of the degree to which these predictions come true, one great likelihood for 2018 is that it will mark the year SD-WAN goes truly mainstream." — Mike Frane, vice president, product management, Windstream.
CenturyLink: Cloud rising
Brannan Matherson, CenturyLink
"In 2018, I fully expect to see an increased focus on the security and compliance best practices necessary to manage cloud adoption as well as effective governance models. In addition, more and more companies will be considering how to address cloud architecture, design and migration scenarios for their existing workloads and mission-critical applications as they transition to the cloud environments. A growing opportunity in the market will be for providers offering planning and assessment services to guide enterprises through their cloud journey.
"More business leaders will not only need to understand their spend for cloud, but also how to be more innovative in how they deliver products and services to end customers. Enabling teams to focus on software from a workload and application perspective to solve business challenges versus physical goods is critical to avoiding being outflanked by competitors already operating in the cloud. Netflix, Amazon and Spotify are prime examples of companies that have already used the cloud to completely disrupt their respective industries.
"I also expect a significant increase in the number of small and medium-size businesses moving to the cloud. It may seem counterintuitive, but it's often easier for these businesses to adopt the cloud than larger ones. That's because they are often more willing -- and eager -- to use the scale of the public cloud to catapult them to where they want to be. And because SMBs typically don't have the budget for their own data centers, they're happy to use what Azure, AWS or their service provider can offer today.
"In conjunction with increased cloud adoption, businesses will invest more in big data and analytics to provide additional insight for strategic decision making, capacity planning and product/service innovation. By enabling businesses to better capture and interpret data from their customers, suppliers and other consumers in the market, big data and analytics can mean the difference between leaping ahead or falling behind." — Brannan Matherson, director of product management, for CenturyLink's Hybrid IT Business Unit.
Technology Business Research: Standards-based 5G takes flight
"With standards for 5G non-standalone (NSA) radio set to be completed [in December, 2017] and compliant chipsets set to be available in mid-2018, a few operators will be able to start deploying the first standards-based 5G systems commercially in late 2018.
"The initial use case for 5G will be providing high speed broadband access, also known as fixed-wireless, a technology both Verizon and AT&T have been coveting in order to more cost effectively and speedily deploy broadband services in the 1 gigabit range. Verizon late last year publicly stated that the first market to receive 5G fixed wireless will be Sacramento, Calif. Other markets will follow and will be announced during 2018." — Chris Antlitz, telecom senior analyst, Technology Business Research.
Red Hat: Web-scale operations evolution ramps up
Ian Hood, Red Hat
"Artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, IoT, web-scale application development, software-defined infrastructure, and 5G hold the key to adapting businesses to the digital ecosystem of the future. As organizations expand adoption of secure web-scale application delivery solutions, they need the capacity to deploy, run, and manage their applications more efficiently in order to deliver consistent, high fidelity user experiences.
"The operationalization of innovative web-scale application development will continue to evolve at a very rapid pace in concert with deployment of highly scalable, distributed virtualized infrastructure. Web and network applications teams will accelerate their combined operational efforts to drive resiliency, agility, self-healing, multi-tenancy and context-rich analytics capabilities for cost-effective delivery over any cloud infrastructure and geography.
"The future successes we will see in our evolving digital ecosystem will be led by organizations that take advantage of innovative open source operational practices and industry partnerships. The movement towards web-scale economics will be achieved more rapidly by those that apply these practices in tightly coupled, small teams that build, test and execute their applications and infrastructure developments attached to real business value for their end customers." — Ian Hood, chief technologist, global service provider, Red Hat.
Canonical: High interest in blockchain and machine learning
"Two of the most interesting IoT developments to emerge in 2017, with the most potential for innovation, were blockchain and machine learning. They likely won't go straight to market in the new year --we'll likely see more proofs of concept instead -- but we have seen some fascinating PoCs already.
"Machine learning has also yielded some interesting case studies to date. We won't see it move entirely to the edge, but there are some compelling examples so far. One example is a retail shop's security cameras with streaming video, in which machine learning can be utilized to identify patterns of potential theft and perform facial recognition. It can do so without digging into customers' personal data and meet both security and privacy concerns." — Mike Bell, executive vice president IoT & Devices at Canonical.
Inocybe: Rise of machine learning
"Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will continue to be the most interesting story in technology. But in 2018 we will see actual value added by ML to operating models. The convergence of cloud, 5G and IoT will demand the implementation of intelligent (through ML) and automated networks (through SDN). These software-smart networks will be the foundation for improving the experience of everything from consumer interaction with voice and visual web products to the expansion of B2B services." — John Zannos, general manager and CRO, Inocybe Technologies.
The Linux Foundation: Containers, microservices projects are mission critical
Arpit Joshipura, Linux Foundation
"Container and microservices are not a separate sector. They are architecture building blocks in almost all projects. We believe that containers and microservices are the way to move the industry forward and are already moving into production-ready maturity. Specifically for open source networking, we have projects like ONAP, OPNFV etc. that have supported and integrated with Kubernetes already." — Arpit Joshipura, GM for networking and orchestration, The Linux Foundation.
— Carl Weinschenk, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation