Even before the COVID-19 pandemic is over, it is already clear what an important role the networking industry has played in keeping economies functioning and people connected. From cloud services to video conferencing apps, networks have been providing essential links between head offices and homeworkers, between government organisations and citizens, between pupils and teachers, between retailers and consumers. Without resilient networks, the economic and social impact of the crisis would have been so much more devastating. A tough situation could have become a meltdown.
So where does the networking sector go from here? And what ought the priorities be for network managers and IT chiefs as we move forwards? Superficially, the outlook for questions such as these looks tricky, not to say discouraging. As moderator of last week’s What’s Hot In Networking event, Jerry Caron of GlobalData presented findings on changed networking priorities post-COVID. As you’d expect, enterprises have massively shifted priorities in favour of things like employee safety and business continuity, and away from digital transformation and finding new markets. Some 58% of those asked expect to decrease IT budgets for the year.
On reflection, this apparent backtracking on commitment to technology as a driver of future growth is best read as a short term thing. Enterprises are naturally acting cautiously on all areas of investment until we can officially call the pandemic over. There are signs that in the longer term investment will redouble in those innovations that can really make a difference.
Let’s consider the example of intent-based networking. It’s probably not a huge priority for most enterprises right here today as they battle their way out of an unexpected recession. But looking forward it would seem to be well aligned with all of their strategic priorities.
Market watcher Global Market Insights predicts that the market value of intent-based networking (IBN) will pass $4 billion by 2026. It forecasts the IBN software segment will grow at a CAGR above 25% from 2020 to 2026, and believes that growth will be driven by enterprises seeking network infrastructure management tools that work in alignment with their business processes. Process automation and the use of advanced technologies such as ML, AI and network orchestration have the power to supercharge demand for IBN solutions and services.
IBN is all about providing optimization and automation and doing it securely and with a minimum of human intervention and network downtime. That will sound pretty good to an IT manager who has spent the first half of 2020 battling to keep everything functioning with some semblance of normality. Major cost savings, compared with traditional networking methods, should be another welcome dividend, not to mention the freeing up of network managers to do something more creative with their time.
Global Market Insights believes demand for IBN software solutions across small and medium-sized enterprises will rise in particular, since this is the segment that most values the kind of cost benefits that IBN promises. Larger enterprises may be interested in what happens when you adopt cloud-based IBN solutions and services and integrate that with cloud infrastructure. Multi-cloud and hybrid cloud investments, integrated with APIs and virtualized overlays, could play well with intent-based networking to reduce complexity. Less reliance on expensive proprietary hardware components has got to be a good thing, particularly with the kind of open IBN that delivers vendor agnosticism.
OK, so nobody has digital transformation or virtualised overlays top of their list right now. But let’s see where we are in six months or a year.
By Guy Matthews, Editor of NetReporter
Here’s a couple of links that help to develop some of the themes in this blog: