2020 belonged to COVID-19 and impacted businesses heavily. The world thanked medical researchers and practitioners for their support and hard work to lead the battle against the pandemic and continues to do so. But let’s pause for a moment and applaud the network engineers who worked very hard day-I and day-out behind the scenes to keep the world connected. Without their support most of the businesses would have shut shop by now and many individuals would have lost their jobs. None of us had an idea about the impact this pandemic would have on our businesses and daily lives. Networks which have been developed and maintained by highly skilled network engineers served as a backbone for the world and continue to do so. Just for an example: Remote working is the new normal.
Looking into 2021 there are changes which have to be implemented in existing network infrastructure, making businesses more resilient, enabling remote work capabilities and digital transformation being the major ones. This also translates into many opportunities to look forward to for network engineers.
This post highlights the trends in networking to look out for in 2021 and opportunities in the field of network engineering:
- Network Security: Security professionals are already in great demand and will continue to do so in future. Attacks will continue to grow more sophisticated and technologies to stop them will grow more advanced. The complexity of an entity’s threat management increases as the quantity of data and traffic being generated off-premises grows. Network security can be targeted from various angles; security will remain a top concern for all enterprises and governments. An average of 5 times more employees are working from home now than before the pandemic and this will extend well into the near future. Anyone should be able to gain access to digital assets in a secure manner, no matter where they are located- head office, data center or public cloud. This also pushes the security perimeter all the way from the cloud to the end user or device. Firewall vendors such as Palo Alto, Fortinet, Juniper etc. are continuously developing technologies which cater to such needs of the market and to support these technologies there will always be a huge demand of skilled network security professionals.
- SD WAN [Software Defined WAN]: Digital services have shown themselves to be critical in times of distress, such as government-mandated shutdowns and environmental disaster. The last two years saw SD-WAN go from an emerging technology to one of the fastest growing segments of the networking industry. SD-WAN will become the standard for how we do wide area networking in the coming years. It will no longer be an option; instead, SD-WAN will become the benchmark for connecting branch offices and public cloud resources. It took a few years for the biggest networking vendors to integrate acquisitions into their portfolios. Going into 2021, there are solid, tightly integrated SD-WAN options for the smallest to the very largest networks. Adoption is rising, because IT leaders are evolving from just doing remote work fast to now doing it right. The focus is on making those rapidly deployed solutions sustainable and reliable for the long haul. For most, that means addressing the bandwidth demands of video conferencing, evaluating transport options and reevaluating security for internet connectivity and more cloud applications. This is where SD-WAN comes to the rescue. Recognized as a solution that addresses network reliability, internet connectivity, agility, and remote access security, IT leaders and industry analysts alike say that the pandemic accelerated their need to look at the use of SD-WAN technology in a WFH environment.
- Network Automation: Network automation has been the buzzword in 2019. Network Automation is the process of automating the configuration, monitoring and management of a network. With 95% of the above processes still being manually done through the command line interface or graphical user interface it costs the company 3 times the amount of OpEX [Operational Expenditure] to maintain the existing network as compared with automating the repetitive processes. Automation does save time and money and reduce human errors. There has been a lot of debate whether network engineers will be replaced by software engineers who are expert in scripting languages, but the fact is that network engineers are important even now as much as they were in the past [to design a network] but now they need some scripting knowledge on Python and Ansible to automate their daily tasks and get more time on their hands to make the design more efficient. In 2021 there will be huge demand of network engineers with Python and Ansible knowledge rather than professionals who do not upgrade their skill set. Change is inevitable.
- Cloud Computing: Cloud computing refers to centralized storing, processing, and analyzing extensive data sets remotely on third-party servers or data centers, usually using the internet. The location of these data centers is typically far from where the data is created and gathered, resulting in high latency issues. The edge computing works in a decentralized manner. It allows you to store and process data near or at the “edge” of the data collection source. In short, it puts a part of a program closer to the data source, or the end-customer is. It is a blessing for applications, as they can work in real time with almost zero latency. The opportunities of cloud technology are stunning. Cloud offers reduced cost offering pay as you go model, enhanced security, easy accessibility of data at anytime, instant backups and fewer losses. The global cloud computing market size was valued at US$266.0 billion in 2019 and is expected to expand at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 14.9% from 2020 to 2027. Factors such as growing digital transformation among industries, rising penetration of internet and mobile devices across the world, and an increase in consumption of big data are the primary drivers fostering market growth. AWS, Azure and Google Cloud are expected to grow more in 2021. By the end of 2021, 60% of companies will leverage containers on public cloud platforms and 25% of developers will leverage serverless.
Start building your skills for the future before your competition does the same. Change is inevitable and IT will continue to evolve at unprecedented speeds. Choose a stream now and secure your future. Though all the above highlighted points will definitely shape the future of networking in the coming years we must not forget that basics of networking will be as important as they were in the past. If your foundation is not strong how much ever you try to learn the new technologies you will never be able to excel in them without strong foundations.
Network Consultant and Trainer by profession with knowledge in multi-vendor environment ranging from routing and switching in Cisco and Juniper to firewalls from Cisco, Palo Alto, Juniper, CheckPoint and Fortigate to virtualization in Cisco UCS and design and deployment of Cisco Viptela SD-WAN solution. Successfully designed and deployed green field and grey field networks for various small to mid-scale organizations.