We hear it every January: "This year promises to be bolder, more innovative and more groundbreaking in our industry than ever before." But, that's because it's usually true. Networking lives at the cutting edge of technology; no one year is the same, and every 12-month cycle always brings the beginning of some new seismic shift in how we can expect networking technology, and our understanding of it, to evolve.
In that regard, 2017 is no different; the next 12 months will absolutely see pivotal changes in how enterprise and small business networking will not just expand, but completely redefine itself.
What is different from past years, though, is the scope of these changes, and their promised ripple effects throughout our industry for many years to come. For 2017 in particular, we're expecting to see bandwidth usage surpass revenue or personnel size as the prime driver for enterprises; increasing cloud-driven consumerization among businesses; and, more intelligent network-to-network interactions and connections.
Bandwidth, not size, will come to determine your company's identity
Until now, businesses were defined as "enterprises" or "SMBs" by their number of employees or amount of revenue. But, starting this year, bandwidth usage will become a prime driver in what defines a business.
This is all due to the rise of bandwidth-hungry businesses that are disrupting old industries and pushing to the forefront of tech innovation, regardless of how many employees they have or how much revenue they're generating every quarter. Whether it's a global giant like Airbnb or a small augmented reality developer that's trafficking large packs of video data and has just a few employees on hand, bandwidth will determine the leaders and followers in a 21st century economy.
Networks will -- and must -- get smarter
The days of SDN and NFV are numbered. The technologies themselves aren't going anywhere, but these labels will fall to the wayside, as providers and customers alike begin thinking about them under one umbrella, as "network intelligence."
Enterprise appetites for bandwidth are growing steadily, and the rapid acceleration of 5G networks proves just how much there is a need for greater bandwidth capacity. Additionally, the network is fundamental to how those enterprises juggle any number of complicated tasks: from acquisitions and mergers, to cloud adoption and international expansion initiatives. Accomplishing these tasks requires a network and bandwidth capacity that can scale in tandem with the company's needs. To do that, intelligent networks -- with the ability to intuitively and automatically reconcile a spectrum of different user and customer requirements -- will become essential to how businesses thrive going forward. Without the ability to dynamically scale networking and bandwidth needs to real-time requirements, those same businesses will find themselves unable to satisfy their customers and will fall behind their competitors.
The roadblocks for network-to-network interaction are coming down
Whether it was costs, too few solutions to choose from or a just general lack of awareness, there have been a number of technological and logistical roadblocks that have prevented networks from "speaking" to each other -- exactly the kind of network-to-network interaction needed to create more intelligent connections.
This year, though, these roadblocks will begin falling en masse, as we'll see more companies and providers offering the means for provisioning network capacity and connections across countries, and across infrastructure managed by different providers, all in real time. We're still just scratching at the surface of what the true implications -- technologically, commercially and economically -- of these network-to-network connections will really be.
Cloud will continue to drive more consumerized businesses
Digital transformation feeds into customers' expectations of getting what they want, when they want it, even if they need to a pay premium for it. Customers then offset those premium costs by sharing or renting the product for the short term, instead of buying it outright -- think of Zipcar, which provides on-demand car rentals at a fraction of the price of owning your own vehicle.
These kinds of expectations for "consumerized businesses" are being baked into our culture and our economy more and more. And, as cloud adoption continues to grow, we'll see the cloud drive consumerization even further. After all, the cloud itself is part of this same rental or "pay-as-you-go" model, which enterprises gravitated to in the first place so they could leave behind the old model of infrastructure purchases. Going forward, cloud models will enable more disruptive businesses to pursue consumerized services, with a flexible network to match and provide those services.
It's safe to say that 2017 will not just be more of the same. We're looking at an enormously transformative 12 months ahead of us. As networking technology and bandwidth application continue to evolve, and at an accelerated pace, we'll see more and more businesses around the world take notice and jump on the bandwagon of smarter networks and cloud-driven, consumerized models, or risk getting left behind.