Review of 30 Years of Change in Computer Networking History

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What would happen if you put the company in airplane mode?

The simple answer: nothing. Literally. Virtually all business processes would come to a halt, which is simply a testament to the modern organization’s dependence on the complex, nested, and interdependent systems that permeate every fiber of business and society today. .

From the key enabler of business agility and transformation to new tactical responses in the cloud, mobile computing and analytics, intelligent connectivity has never been such an essential part of the business experience. , governments and consumers.

“All of these new trends we’re talking about (Internet of Things, mobility, cloud computing, mesh computing) are network-centric computing paradigms,” says Zeus Kerravala, Founder and Senior Analyst at ZK Research.

Businesses blend the digital and physical worlds to better serve their customers, generate new revenue, and streamline their operations. Buildings are automating. Factory floor equipment is wired. Healthcare solutions revolve around smartphones, cloud computing and big data.

Scenarios that seemed outrageous ten years ago now seem quite achievable: “We started demonstrating cars of the future 10 to 15 years ago and several Internet devices on your body,” says John. Chambers, executive chairman and former CEO of Cisco. “At CES in 2000, we showed a car that… would hook up to your cafe and brew your drink… You now connect processing capabilities and applications, as well as security and collaboration across multiple networks, from the public cloud to at the peripheral device for entertainment or business. This is the transition we are in.

By 2019, there will be 3.2 devices or network connections per person, up from 2 each in 2014, Cisco plans in its Visual networking index, an annual report on Internet and intellectual property trends and statistics. This translates to 24 billion devices and network connections worldwide, up from 14 billion in 2014, and nearly half of the 50 billion total connected devices Cisco expects by 2020. In the same time frame Over time, global IP traffic will almost triple to 168 exabytes per month (one exabyte is worth one billion billions), while the number of machine-to-machine interconnects will increase from 3.3 billion to 10.5 billion.

Software adds elasticity

As far as we’ve come from, we’re taking advantage – perhaps surprisingly – of the network effect, which basically says that value increases as more and more things are connected. From Wikipedia:

“The classic example is the telephone. The more people who own phones, the more valuable the phone is to each owner. This creates a positive externality because a user can buy a phone without intending to create value for other users, but does so anyway. Online social networks work the same, with sites like Twitter and Facebook becoming more attractive as more and more users join.

And while the network effect will benefit us for years to come as the IoT intensifies, the complexity of the connected world outstrips our ability to keep up, forcing a shift to anything software-controlled. .

“The last 30 years of networking have been all hardware, generally speaking,” says Rohit Mehra, vice president of network infrastructure at IDC. “The next 30 years will be entirely dedicated to software.

Taking control of the individual components of the business system and integrating and centralizing this function will eliminate the need to touch and service parts and allow the maintenance and supervision of these complex systems to be orchestrated and automated by programming.

At least that’s the promise of the envisioned disintegration in everything from server virtualization to software-defined networking and the largest software-defined data center.

“There is a fundamental transition happening now because the status quo is not sustainable,” said Nick Lippis, longtime industry observer and co-founder of the Open Networking User Group (UNOG) , in a Network World special report on SDN. “The cost of operating networks is too high and growing too quickly and you can’t find enough people to handle these things anymore. It’s time to change.

Previously, the focus was on a box-by-box deployment, now it’s about bringing automation into the network by taking a software-centric approach, explains Mehra. “How you manage, how you troubleshoot, how you orchestrate – the software is going to be the glue that puts everything together and allows IT to use its cycles on more strategic tasks. “

John Chambers, Cisco Executive Chairman and Former CEO

The lag is important.

“The software-defined revolution is possibly the biggest transition the industry has ever faced,” says Mehra. , the flexibility and virtualization that go with it. “

This flexibility, of course, is needed to keep pace with the adoption of technologies like cloud computing and virtualization that make compute and application layers more agile. “You can’t have agile IT without using the network,” says Kerravala.

Server virtualization has provided both a roadmap and an impetus for network virtualization, Mehra says. “All the associated increases in traffic, increases in workloads, increases in applications, all associated security and vulnerability issues resulting from virtualization have to be managed through the network,” explains Mehra. “If we didn’t virtualize, it wouldn’t happen. We wouldn’t be able to do the things that IT is responsible for. “

Major advances in chipsets and semiconductors from Intel, Broadcom and others have also been invaluable, Mehra said.

“Today when we virtualize certain functions, whether it’s load balancing or a policy engine or whatever we can do in an SDN build, we can do it because we can virtualize. these functions without sacrificing performance. We couldn’t do this 10 years or even six years ago, ”Mehra says. “We’re in the middle of this software-defined revolution, but it’s been made possible by several things that are all falling into place: advances in semiconductors, advances with other hardware, and advances in how we can consume software in the networking world. “

This coalescence of new developments is, in fact, what enables the Internet of Things: advances in sensors, in wireless networks, in software control, in distributed intelligence and in big data tools that allow extract actionable intelligence from a plethora of data points.

“We talk about the IoT like it’s the new animal in the zoo, but in reality it’s evolutionary,” Mehra says. What is different today is the quality of the sensors and gateways at the edge, which have benefited from increased computing power and greater intelligence. “They can decide, ‘Should this go back to the cloud or to my data center? Or can I make a decision here, right on the edge, and save myself the trouble of sending that many megabytes of data back? “This level of intelligence now exists on the periphery, which was not feasible five or seven years ago,” explains Mehra. “The ability to take data and feed it up the value chain – we didn’t have that a few years ago.”

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