Networks emerge as catalyst for digital business success

Global networking trends report for 2024 reveals continued measurable impact of the network in advancing business goals, with 72% planning on deploying integrated network management platforms over the next two years

The latest edition of Cisco’s Global networking trends has found that in the next two years, firms are set to add advanced networking architectures and capabilities to their environments, doing far more with increasingly scarce human resources and redefining how the network contributes to the bottom line.

The research was conducted in November 2023 by Cisco in partnership with IDC. Responses were gathered from over 2,052 IT leaders and professionals from 13 markets and 10 industries, assessing their top networking challenges, priority IT and business outcomes, architectural advances, and future-looking investment strategies.

It addressed professionals in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Singapore, the UK and the US, working in education, financial and insurance services, government, healthcare, manufacturing, mining, retail, telecoms, and transportation.

The report aims to provide insights into areas driving network transformation. Across these trends, three themes stand out: the platform, security and artificial intelligence (AI).

Offering more in-depth analysis, the study emphasises that adopting a centralised network management platform will be transformational, an approach that it said would help IT teams attain greater visibility, connectivity and security in a world of public clouds, private clouds and on-premise workloads.

Cyber security tops the list of concerns, while respondents across every vertical believe AI-generated insights will help them stay ahead of the expanding threat landscape. If it’s connected, it must be protected, said Cisco.

With AI, the survey sees firms modernising their infrastructures for AI workloads and more sustainable datacentres, using AI to build better networks, predict failures and diagnose problems.

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The report also identifies important advances in five strategic areas to help drive digital business. Looking at architecture transformation, the study shows that a network platform, integrated partner ecosystem and digital experience assurance – enabled through advanced network telemetry and end-to-end visibility – are all becoming increasingly popular to simplify operations and drive digital resilience. Offering a two-year outlook, 72% of respondents expect to embrace a network platform architecture across one or more networking domain.

Converging network and security technologies and workflows are now a top priority and best practice as security concerns expand with continued cloud adoption. Three in five respondents expect to have an integrated multi-cloud networking and security management platform in place for secure workload mobility, network and application visibility, and policy management in the next two years.

Automation through an AI-enabled approach is a sought-after strategy to simplify and optimise operations, assure the digital experience and mitigate risk while strengthening security. The survey reveals that by 2026, 60% of IT leaders and professionals expect to have AI-enabled predictive network automation in place across all domains to manage NetOps.

Datacentre infrastructure modernisation is well underway to meet AI workload and new application demands at scale while using AI-native platforms to address increasing complexity. Just over half, 56%, of respondents expect to deploy a next-generation enhanced Ethernet network, providing standardised packet lossless technology to support AI workload in the next two years.

Sustainability advancement is also a key issue, with IT departments found to be looking to networking platform features to advance telemetry and visibility, and build smart, sustainable buildings while advancing net-zero goals.

“The network builds transformational innovations like cloud,” said Jonathan Davidson, executive vice-president and general manager of Cisco Networking. “In return, it’s transformed by them. The cloud and the network are synonymous ... I see the same with AI; there is no AI without the network and the data that drives it.”

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