Looking back at the biggest 2016 tech trends in networking

In 2016 tech trends in networking, the industry witnessed the growth of analytics, Cisco's embrace of software and services and new Ethernet standards.

Editor's note: Cisco accelerated its shift to software and services as hardware sales decreased, the IEEE formally ratified a new Ethernet standard that lets enterprises continue to use existing cabling in high-speed wireless environments, and analytics gets its time in the spotlight. Here, a recap of some of the stories that resonated in the networking industry in 2016.

2016 tech trends: Data center infrastructure

As is usually the case, Cisco occupied many of SearchNetworking's news headlines during 2016. In February, the company posted earnings showing a slowdown in data center purchasing, as buyers held off on new switches and data center products because of volatility in financial markets.

Partly as a consequence of those lower sales, CEO Chuck Robbins announced at Cisco Live that customers could expect more software and cloud services from the vendor in the months and years to come. This, as Cisco begins to lose ground as a critical infrastructure supplier to Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and others. In part due to declining demand for its proprietary hardware, Cisco launched layoffs in August.

After complaints that Cisco was being too slow to roll out network automation tools, the company announced in early November at its Partner Summit that it would be accelerating delivery of software designed to perform tasks that are done manually today. The end of the year saw some bright spots in the company's strategy as Cisco reported increases in company spending on software and subscription services. Yet service provider spending remained weak.

Other data center news included Barefoot Networks' launch of high-speed programmable chips and Dell EMC's post-merger announcement of new hybrid cloud, convergence and cloud-native applications. That said, the combined company's overall networking plans remained very much in flux.

2016 tech trends: Wireless LAN

The past 12 months saw a steady flow of wireless LAN developments as the industry continued to deploy systems based on the 802.11 ac specification. In April, MIT researchers unveiled Wi-Fi indoor positioning technology that allowed an access point to spot people within inches of their locations, a potential boon to small businesses unable to afford to take advantage of location-based services. In May, Cisco introduced a first of its kind, cloud-based multigigabit switch and added access points and desk phones for its Meraki wireless unit.

Summer saw a focus on emerging 5G technology, with AT&T taking a different tack than Verizon in its strategy to deploy the next-gen cellular service. The IEEE formally ratified 2.5 and 5 GbE, allowing enterprises to reuse existing CAT5e and CAT6 cabling to support higher wireless speeds. Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) company, combined six network products to provide a new enterprise mobile first platform based on APIs. In October, Avaya announced cloud-based management for its access switches and WLAN 9100 APs. KodaCloud began issuing Wi-Fi management and APs for a monthly subscription fee for small and medium-sized businesses.

To improve their respective Wi-Fi offerings, Extreme Networks and startup Mist started promoting Wi-Fi APs as unified systems while Cisco released Layer 2 Meraki switches with 10 GbE uplinks. The networking industry anticipated purchase offers from Nokia, Dell and Juniper after Broadcom announced the sale of the Ruckus WLAN product line in the aftermath of its Brocade acquisition.

2016 tech trends: Network performance management and monitoring

In network management, 2016 began with Ansible's net automation update for infrastructure devices from Cisco, Arista, HPE and Juniper. Nyansa launched a network performance platform that blended cloud-based analytics with real-time DPI and further broadened its network traffic analytics capabilities with Voyance+ later in the year.

Cisco, meantime, released a new analytics engine in June, to monitor the performance of apps in large data centers using Nexus switches. Arista upgraded CloudVision with improved analytics and real-time data collection while ExtraHop 6.0 added the option to download packets associated with an individual transaction as part of a product refresh.

Finally, tools capable of tracking vulnerabilities in virtualized networks began to make their debut in 2016. Two startups, Forward Networks and Veriflow Systems, each launched software aimed at anticipating network problems ahead of time.

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