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We all have heard the adage, "The only thing constant in life is change." In the technology realm, Moore's Law is the epitome of this law of change, where it is postulated that processor speed doubles every eighteen months. As instructive as Moore's Law is, it is often desirable to assess the overall future direction of technology that supersedes lesser trends.

Every so often, there comes a time when several major advances in technological innovations will converge to create a paradigm shift of historic proportions. We are quickly approaching this inflection point. 

To navigate through the whirlwind of changes that are shaping the technological landscape, business leaders and technology managers must be cognizant of, and plan for, these emerging trends. 

So, what are the upcoming trends that organizations should prepare for? Below are some crucial trends that can disrupt one's business landscape.

  • Artificial intelligence: The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning is expected to become more widespread across various industries, enabling new and innovative applications.
  • Edge computing: Edge computing is likely to become indispensable as the amount of data generated continues to grow, driving the need for real-time data processing at the source.
  • Next-generation robotics and IoT: IoT is expected to continue to grow, with more devices connected to the internet and the development of new applications in areas such as smart homes and cities, industrial IoT, and wearable technology.
  • Augmented reality: Virtual and augmented reality technologies are expected to become more widespread and mature, driving new applications in areas such as gaming, entertainment, education, and training.
  • Interconnected wireless ecosystems: With wireless technologies such as 5G networks, users will experience faster, more reliable, and low-latency connectivity that will drive the development of new and innovative technologies.
  • Data-driven science and medicine: Augmented Analytics represents a modern method for analyzing data, which utilizes machine learning to streamline the process of uncovering insights from data. As a result, businesses will be increasing in need to implement powerful servers that can run augmented analytics tools that can extract valuable insights from data efficiently.

These technological trends have a common theme associated with them; namely the empowerment of the end-user, and the decentralization of information, computing power, and storage. Users now have a vast array of information at their disposal and have access to the latest state-of-the art advances in sciences and medicine. The network requirements for some of these upcoming technological innovations is shown below.   

Successfully adopting technology trends that are disrupting the business landscape come with a host of requirements for access network architecture.
Successfully adopting technology trends that are disrupting the business landscape come with a host of requirements for access network architecture.

The empowerment of the end user and the blistering rate of decentralization necessitates a rethinking of the computer network infrastructure, specifically the access networking architecture within organizations. 

Cisco access switching solutions  

Generally, users' main entry point to the network is the access network. Historically, this entry point has been known as the "last mile" and the main emphasis of network architects has been increasing its bandwidth. The future access network will require stricter requirements and expanded use cases. As an example, the following illustrates a cutting-edge manufacturing facility that in time will need to leverage many of the upcoming technology trends.  

An example of an access network architecture that can support a manufacturer's adoption of cutting-edge technology.
An example of an access network architecture that can support a manufacturer's adoption of cutting-edge technology.

The complicated nature of the network shown is readily apparent. One can only imagine the additional complexity that is introduced when adding virtual reality to inspect manufactured products, integrating AI with robots, and positioning several types of sophisticated sensors using wireless. Features such as a self-healing network through automation and the insertion of machine learning and expert systems will also introduce complexity.  

Cisco, with its broad array of access LAN switches and extensive ecosystem, can assist in developing network architectures that can incorporate added complexity and is future-proof. Cisco switches and monitoring platforms can be grouped into the following categories. 

Cisco Industrial Switches 

These are ruggedized, secure, user-friendly switches built for extending the enterprise network to include harsh, industrial environments. These industrial switches provide secure connectivity and comprehensive manageability across the enterprise infrastructure. These switches will future proof your network infrastructure for industries such as manufacturing, utilities, transportation, oil and gas, mining, and smart cities. Some features and benefits of this class of switches are:

  • The ability to leverage edge data for insights in real time. Instead of pushing data to your cloud before analyzing it, you can now act immediately based on data right at the edge.
  • Continuous online monitoring of critical assets. High-resolution collection and processing of vibration and temperature data on motors, pumps, and gearboxes provide a historical trend perspective that can be used to maintain assets based on their use and health.
  • Manufacturing power quality monitoring. Electrical power quality metrics can be collected to retrieve precision voltage, current and harmonic data. This data would be used to alert and diagnose potential equipment or grid malfunction.
  • Process control optimization. Data about a particular process can be pipelined using Cisco industrial switches to an observability platform. Through the deployment and use of targeted observability platform, data can be visualized and processed using machine learning to uncover anomalies.

Cisco Campus Catalyst Switches 

Cisco has a comprehensive portfolio of switching solutions for enterprise networks and branches. Cisco Catalyst access switches bring wired and wireless together to simplify operations and optimize network operations. These switches easily manage wired and wireless networks, facilitate end-to-end security, and streamline campus LAN architecture. These switches support end-to-end management and monitoring through Cisco DNA Center. Some features and benefits of Cisco Campus Catalyst Switches are:

Support Wi-Fi 6. Multigigabit technology for existing networks enables users to get 2.5, 5, or 10Gbps data rates from their existing cabling and better user experiences for devices that support Wi-Fi 6 and 802.11ac. 

Single management, configuration and automation platform through Cisco DNA Center. Cisco DNA Center is a powerful network controller with automation capabilities for provisioning and change management. It provides enhanced analytics that pulls streaming telemetry that uses machine reasoning to automate complex networking tasks  

Flexible design. These switches support every type of port density and different bandwidth requirements that fulfills the bandwidth requirements for applications that require higher speeds and data rates.  

Power over ethernet (PoE). Power over ethernet enables power and data over a single ethernet cable where the Catalyst switches are in complete compliance with the 802.3bt standard and support all previous IEEE standards and Cisco Universal Power Over Ethernet (UPOE+).

Virtual applications. These switches provide support for on-boarded virtual applications.

Planning for the future 

Cisco can guide you through the unprecedented pace of technological innovation that can have unpredictable implications for your business and commerce. This will necessitate enterprise network architects to proactively plan for the future. Predicting future trends is an arduous task. To be "future-ready," network managers need a network architecture that can quickly adapt itself to various circumstances and can broadly support the attributes needed for the new environment. 

Artificial Intelligence will change how applications are being acquired and deployed. These changes will impact the campus network as the network architecture needs to optimize and secure traffic bound for applications distributed on servers across the campus. The adoption of IoT in enterprise and industrial facilities adds network complexity, affecting overall lifecycle management and provisioning processes.  

The latest wireless protocols such as Wi-Fi 6 will bring additional network traffic and a constant stream of data. These changes will bring their own set of performance demands that need to be incorporated into any future network architecture. Augmented reality applications need low latency networks that provide symmetrical data transfer that require dynamic synchronization between network entities and real-time traffic optimization.  

Networking teams will need to incorporate state-of-the-art technologies like automation, orchestration, streaming telemetry, and artificial intelligence to better manage their networks, and proactively prepare for the impending dramatic shift in the technology landscape. 

Next steps

The era of next-generation campus access network is approaching. It's important to have help along the way as you define and implement a next-generation network architecture to future-proof you network infrastructure. 

We can help you traverse the stages of architectural definition, technological design and solution deployment. We will help you upgrade, integrate your underlying network architecture and develop a high-impact solution that spans multiple technologies.