Top 5 Predictions for 2019 - The Connected Society Coming of Age

By Daniel Forsgren

As we move into 2019, many of the technologies and paradigm shifts that have been in discussion for several years - ranging from NFV to 5G - are moving from discussion and development into real deployments. The ever-connected society is coming of age, but with that also comes increased expectations regarding functionality, quality, and user experience.

#1: "Software Defined" is the New Normal

A few years back, acronyms like SDN and NFV became the buzzwords of the day, as well as the main theme for trade shows and investments. Now, many of these products and technologies are ready for prime time, and in 2019 they will become the new normal. During the year to come, many projects in the area of network virtualization and software defined networking will go from proof-of-concept to large scale deployment. In the enterprise domain, vCPE for SD-WAN is an example of where we will see increased rollout and deployment of real solutions. Paradoxically, as this becomes the new normal, we will hear less and less about SDN and NFV specifically, and more about "network transformation" in general. Who knows - the trade show that you used to visit under the name SDN or NFV in previous years, might simply be called "networking" or "network transformation" as we move into 2019.

#2: Digital Consumption Decoupled from Technology

Digital consumption is the lifeblood of the connected society. The consumer's perceived value comes to a large degree from over-the-top services that are independent of the underlying infrastructure, and the border between fixed and mobile begins to blur. People are consuming everything from streamed video to online gaming, regardless of the underlying technology, and consumers are expecting the same experience whether they are connected over a mobile network or a fixed infrastructure. Network issues, like latency for example, cause problems perceived as "lag", and managing quality of experience becomes a key necessity for customer satisfaction and retention, particularly in mobile networks.

#3: Quality-of-Service as a Key Differentiator

Quality-of-service becomes a key differentiator among operators and communication service providers as consumers' expectations regarding quality-of-experience continue to increase. New technologies, ranging from 5G in general to network slicing in particular, all promise to improve quality-of-service, for example regarding latency. In most other domains (cf. courier services or airlines), price segmentation is fundamental to capitalize on differentiated quality-of-service. Within the communication domain, differentiated quality-of-service is crucial both in order to meet expectations around user experience, and to enable new business models for service providers. Technology to classify and prioritize network traffic therefore remains a key enabler for networks in 2019.

#4: Business Drives Technology

Up until now, investments in everything from NFV to 5G have largely been driven by technology. Vendors and operators have proactively been investing areas that seemed right from a strategic point of view, but without clearly associated revenue streams. As we move into 2019, this is about to change as rollout and large-scale deployment requires concrete business value in terms of new revenues and new business. For technology vendors, there is now an opportunity to directly translate technology into business value. Helping operators to drive revenues or control costs becomes key as the technology itself goes from hype to actual deployment.

#5: Cyber Security – Beyond Individual Devices

Cyber security has been a hot topic for several years, but in the past year it became vitally important from a business perspective, as data leaks and ransomware were subjecting companies and organizations to enormous costs. Endpoint security has been a steady growth area during this time, but driven by factors such as an ever increasing number of IoT devices, increased threats from "shadow" IT systems, and the increased challenges posed by bring-your-own-device (BYOD) polices, there is also a need for a more holistic approach to network security. As we move into 2019, we will likely see increased focus on cyber security at the cloud and network level. Driven by big data at the network level and supported by machine learning and AI, we will most probably see more device and user behavior analytics, where the ability to collect, aggregate and analyze network traffic becomes part of tomorrow's networks.

Note: This article is also published on The Fast Mode.