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Corporate campus networks are changing, just like data centers and WANs.
Below are six campus network trends driving changes in enterprise campus designs and operations.
1. Network automation
Network automation will continue to improve as vendors implement APIs. Interoperability problems will persist as each network equipment vendor implements its own set of APIs. Effective automation requires consistency in design and implementation, so network teams can expect to see tools and systems that provide useful abstractions to hide the differences. Network engineers who were trained to use a command-line interface will need to learn new skills and adapt to using DevOps methodologies for network operations.
2. IT security and work from anywhere with any device
All organizations, regardless of size and business segment, are susceptible to cybercriminals, making network security critical. Many campus networks experienced significant reductions in use when the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the transition to work from anywhere. The traditional security infrastructure at the corporate edge is no longer a viable design as users migrate around the campus network and off-premises locations. Network teams should investigate Secure Access Service Edge to provide connectivity and security for a mobile workforce that is more frequently working from anywhere with personally owned devices. At a minimum, enterprise plans should include foundational security steps, including multifactor authentication and system backups.
Wireless is going through a radical change. Both Wi-Fi 6 and cellular 5G have big promises to fulfill, especially those of higher speeds and lower latency. The use of new 6 GHz frequency bands will help both technologies. Both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will rely on smaller cell sizes and greater bandwidth to meet the promise of gigabit speeds. The millimeter wave frequency band will shrink cell sizes even more due to its short propagation distance. This means enterprise wireless plans should include a denser deployment of access points when it comes time for a network hardware refresh.
4. IoT and edge computing
The transition to IoT and edge computing is flourishing. Cameras, sensors, locks and controls need additional security so they don't become internal attack vectors. Processing IoT data at the edge of the network, before it goes to the cloud or data center, is key to reducing infrastructure costs without compromising the benefits.
5. More cloud, less on-premises data center
Cloud computing has changed data flows within the campus network. Applications are being moved from the corporate data center into anything-as-a-service products that require internet connectivity. Enterprises with tight security requirements are not exempt from this migration to the cloud. Network teams should make sure any provider's operational and security policies match their organizations' requirements, especially access policies, the use of zero-trust network access and how the provider will help their organizations quickly recover from a cybersecurity attack.
6. Machine learning and AI
Machine learning, a subset of AI, is being applied to a wide variety of problems, especially IT security and management. This trend will expand as network teams learn to apply it more widely. This expansion will include automatic identification and remediation of typical problems that previously took staff time to investigate and resolve.
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