2021 Predictions and Trends

CommunityIt almost seems unreal the year we have had and how 2020 has reshaped so many parts of our lives. As is common with me, I am doing a lot of reflective thinking about what happened pre-COVID and thinking about what’s next and how we will be working moving forward. As 2020 comes to a close and we look to what 2021 will look like, I had a few ideas I wanted to explore and review a few predictions from last year.

One thing is for sure, no matter what we all thought 2020 was going to look like—we had no idea!!! Below are the few trends that are top of mind for me:

5G – Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Obviously, everyone has been preparing for 5G for some time now. Today we are seeing operators deploy 5G in the real world with recent announcements from major service providers and mobile device makers. We knew back when it was being talked about that the network was going to become far more distributed. With significant growth in distributed services and capabilities, it will be critical for device makers to have automation built-in. In 2021, 5G will accelerate, requiring more and more network equipment makers to deliver programmability that is driven by NETCONF and YANG. Having so many connected devices and networks relying on access and connectivity, programmability driven automation will continue to become even more important.

Work from Home: This isn’t a new idea, but due to the pandemic and the state of the world, we are all now WFH. Just last year, it was relatively rare for folks to work from home, or at least for most of the time. 2020 has forced all organizations to wake up and scale up networks and services to everyone everywhere due to WFH. For instance, teleconference services like WebEx had to scale out the network and server capacity quickly. Bandwidth to the home has become critical as employees had to be able to do everything from their home office. Additionally, all those that were already working from home had to increase the bandwidth into the home because all of their neighbors were as well. In 2021, organizations will need to embed automation deeper into the network and services in order to ensure employee connectivity in rapidly changing environments. Automation driven by programmability will be a competitive advantage for businesses.

Last year, I looked at a number of trends and predictions—so how did I do?

NFV and SDN Aren’t Dead: The big buzz at the end of 2019 due to a posting from Gartner, claimed that NFV and SDN were dead. I noted that neither was really dead, but that they were evolving. As micro-services are deployed into a cloud-native approach, using containers like Docker managed by Kubernetes will increase. So, the architecture changes based on what it is running on, but the management, configuring, and monitoring are the same. The network and its management will evolve, yet the ability to configure and monitor the network is still needed. I think that this prediction has happened.

Containers was a buzz word in 2019 and have taken off in 2020: I expect that this will only continue to grow in use in 2021. At the end of the day, complexity is increasing in the network and there is no way around it. So, automation and programmability become the keystone in delivering the best in class network and services.

CLI will die in 2020: I need to restate that it isn’t completely dead, but instead, it is more of a fading away of CLI use. I was spot on regarding the fact that moving forward CLI is not where folks are looking for automation. Programmability is the key to making automation successful. I expect that there will always be a CLI, but its importance is and will continue to fade away over time.

Consolidation of Responsibility in the Network: I approached this topic earlier in 2020 in a blog about who is running the network and are admins becoming engineers. The understanding and use of programmability will continue to grow as more and more admins/engineers get smarter about programmability. Our recent webinar attendee numbers highlight the growing need for more knowledge and direction when it comes to implementing programmability driven by NETCONF and YANG into the network. So much so, that I am seeing small networks implementing programmability. You know that it has penetrated the market if a small school district in the southern United States requires it in their RFP.

At the end of the day, who knows if 2021 will be as trying and exciting as 2020. But one thing is for sure, programmability driven by NETCONF and YANG will continue to be required, with ever-increasing importance, in so many parts of the network and services. Here’s to a quiet 2021 with some exciting new innovations.