This content is part of the Essential Guide: Next-gen IT infrastructure strategy to guide digital transformation

The future of networking technology is playing out right now

To prepare for the future of networking technology, IT managers must understand evolving concepts like hyper-convergence, SD-WAN and intent-based networking.

In the 2011 novel Ready Player One, author Ernest Cline offers his take on the future of networking technology: a dystopian United States in 2044, where everyone is plugged into a virtual world dubbed Oasis.

The protagonist, Wade Watts, is a network-savvy teen who discusses data center stacks, servers, bandwidth and security with the air of a wizened IT pro as he stays a step ahead of forces who are out to stop him (spoiler alert). The book also offers some hardcore '80s pop culture nostalgia, for anyone into things like John Hughes movies and new wave music.

In this story, the only way to escape the dreary real world is to have a thorough understanding of the networked, virtual world. Today's infrastructure is not to the point of plugging people in -- at least not yet. But the future of networking technology is already underway, and, like Watts, IT managers must understand how all these evolving concepts will work together.

hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), for one, is an intriguing peek into the future of networking technology. While still a small segment of the overall market, HCI brings together compute, storage, networking and virtualization resources in a single integrated platform. Storage management has fueled much of the rise in HCI, but today, IT managers are examining how it fits in with their overall cloud strategies.

Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), meantime, continues to gain traction as enterprises examine new tools to connect their remote offices. But as WAN traffic grows, so do threats, and IT managers must determine the role SD-WAN security tools will play in helping them protect their WANs. New features like microsegmentation are promising, but more work needs to be done, analysts say.

Finally, enterprises might soon have the option of telling the network to fix itself through the use of intent-based networking (IBN). Using automation and policies, IBN could redefine how applications and services are delivered across networks, even as it ushers in evolutionary technologies.

How all of these developments combine to create the future of networking technology remains to be seen. But it's certainly fun to read about.

In the meantime, network managers continue to find the best ways to manage their expanding networks and ensure enterprise users have the bandwidth and tools they need to get their jobs done. Read one IT pro's story on how his company upgraded communications and bandwidth so it had the best network uptime possible.

Next Steps

2017 trends in networking

Network virtualization is forward-looking

Evolving networking needs are up in the cloud

Dig Deeper on Network infrastructure

Unified Communications
Mobile Computing
Data Center