If you’re not prepared for the future of networking, you’re already behind.

 

That may sound harsh, but it’s true. Given the speed at which technology evolves compared to the rate most of us typically evolve in terms of our skillsets, there’s no time to waste in preparing ourselves to manage and monitor the networks of tomorrow. Yes, this is a bit of a daunting proposition considering the fact that some of us are still trying to catch up with today’s essentials of network monitoring and management, but the reality is that they’re not really mutually exclusive, are they?

 

In part one of this series, I outlined how the networks of today have evolved, and what today’s new essentials of network monitoring and management are as a consequence.

 

Before delving into what the next generation of network monitoring and management will look like, it’s important to first explore what the next generation of networking will look like.

 

On the Horizon

 

Above all else, one thing is for certain: We networking professionals should expect tomorrow’s technology to create more complex networks resulting in even more complex problems to solve.

 

Networks growing in all directions

 

Regardless of your agency’s position, the explosion of IoT, BYOD, BYOA and BYO-everything is upon us. With this trend still in its infancy, the future of connected devices and applications will be not only about the quantity of connected devices, but also the quality of their connections tunneling network bandwidth.

 

Agencies are using, or at least planning to use, IoT devices, and this explosion of devices that consume or produce data will, not might, create a potentially disruptive explosion in bandwidth consumption, security concerns and monitoring and management requirements.

 

IPv6 eventually takes the stage…or sooner (as in now!)

 

Recently, ARIN was unable to fulfill a request for IPv4 addresses because the request was greater than the contiguous blocks available. IPv6 is a reality today. There is an inevitable and quickly approaching moment when switching over will no longer be an option, but a requirement.

 

SDN and NFV will become the mainstream

 

Software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) are expected to become mainstream in the next five to seven years; okay, maybe a bit longer for our public sector friends. With SDN and virtualization creating new opportunities for hybrid infrastructure, a serious look at adoption of these technologies is becoming more and more important.

 

So long WAN Optimization, Hello ISPs

 

Bandwidth increases are outpacing CPU and custom hardware’s ability to perform deep inspection and optimization, and ISPs are helping to circumvent the cost and complexities associated with WAN accelerators. WAN optimization will only see the light of tomorrow in unique use cases where the rewards outweigh the risks.

 

Farewell L4 Firewalling

 

Firewalls incapable of performing deep packet analysis and understanding the nature of the traffic at the Layer 7 (L7), or the application layer, will not satisfy the level of granularity and flexibility that most network administrators should offer their users. On this front, change is clearly inevitable for us network professionals, whether it means added network complexity and adapting to new infrastructures or simply letting withering technologies go.

 

Preparing to Manage the Networks of Tomorrow 

 

So, what can we do to prepare to monitor and manage the networks of tomorrow? Consider the following:

 

Understand the “who, what, why and where” of IoT, BYOD and BYOA

 

Connected devices cannot be ignored. According to 451 Research, mobile Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) connections will increase to 908 million in just five years. This staggering statistic should prompt you to start creating a plan of action on how you will manage these devices.

 

Your strategy can either aim to manage these devices within the network or set an organizational policy to regulate traffic altogether. Curbing all of tomorrow’s BYOD/BYOA is nearly impossible. As such, you will have to understand your network device traffic in incremental metrics in order to optimize and secure them. Even more so, you will need to understand network segments that aren’t even in your direct control, like the tablets, phablets and Fitbits, to properly isolate issues.

 

Know the ins and outs of the new mainstream

 

As stated earlier, SDN, NFV and IPv6 will become the new mainstream. We can start preparing for these technologies’ future takeovers by taking a hybrid approach to our infrastructures today. This will put us ahead of the game.

 

Start comparison shopping now

 

Evaluating virtualized network options and other on-the-horizon technologies will help you nail down your agency’s particular requirements. Sometimes, knowing a vendor has or works with technology you don’t need right now but might later can and should influence your decisions.

 

Brick in, brick out

 

Taking on new technologies can feel overwhelming. Look for ways that potential new additions will not just enhance, but replace the old guard. If you don’t do this, then the new technology will indeed simply seem to increase workload and do little else. This is also a great measuring stick to identify new technologies whose time may not yet have truly come for your organization.

 

To conclude this series, my opening statement from part one merits repeating: learn from the past, live in the present and prepare for the future. The evolution of networking waits for no one. Don’t be left behind.

 

Find the full article on Federal Technology Insider.