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As one of the core technologies upon which the entire digitisation process depends for its success, what happens on the network affects all of us in both our working and personal lives, and 2016 was no exception.
If we had to pick out the three biggest trends hitting the network this year, by far the most high profile are network security and the internet of things (IoT), while at the core, interest in software defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV) – two closely interrelated technologies that will fundamentally change the way networks are run – continued to grow massively.
Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 networking stories of 2016.
1. How John Deere uses connectivity to make farms more efficient
One of the biggest use cases for network connectivity, particularly as it relates to the IoT, is in connected vehicles, and where better to start than down on the farm, where you can find some of the biggest land-going vehicles in the world? In this interview from February, Christoph Wigger from farm vehicle and equipment supplier John Deere explained some of the technology and projects his firm is literally using to the field.
2. Why are telcos so readily adopting open standards for NFV?
Communications services providers (CSPs) are lining up to make their future virtualised networks as open as possible. What’s the attraction? In March, we explored this trend, looking at the benefits that open networking standards bring to CSPs by enabling more cost-effective, supplier-neutral, best-of-breed networking solutions for enterprise customers, and faster internet for consumers.
As more enterprises start to deploy SDN, the need for security from the ground up should not be underestimated, and it will demand a different approach to traditional aspects of network security, which have tended to focus on stopping malfeasance at the perimeter. In March, Rene Millman sought expert opinions to find out how enterprise CIOs should proceed into this new world.
4. Nokia slashes jobs after Alcatel-Lucent acquisition
One of the biggest networking industry stories of the past two years has been the acquisition of one struggling supplier, Alcatel-Lucent, by another, Nokia. The alliance between the two firms, which created a new European networking force in areas such as carrier-grade telecoms networking hardware, long-term evolution (LTE), fixed broadband and wireless, was cemented early in 2016, but there was soon bad news for employees as Nokia embarked on a round of redundancies in the name of cost synergy.
5. Executive interview: Harriet Green, IBM’s internet of things chief
The IoT is understandably viewed by technology companies large and small as the next great wave of development in the digital age. Towards the end of 2015 supplier IBM ramped up its involvement in the IoT, using its Watson artificial intelligence (AI) technology as a unique differentiator. In April this year, Computer Weekly editor in chief Bryan Glick caught up with IBM’s new head of IoT, Harriet Green, to learn more.
Much of the hype around the IoT has centred on somewhat trivial use cases, often relating to kitchen appliances, and over the years we’ve all had a good giggle about having our fridges hacked – but in 2016 it was time to get real. In June, Rene Milllman explored the first steps enterprises should take when implementing their first IoT project.
7. Cisco wants to be the foundation for digital transformation
In July, networkers from around the world came together for one of the sector’s biggest supplier events, Cisco Live in Las Vegas. Steve Evans travelled to Nevada to join them, and heard how new Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins planned to go beyond networking and position the supplier at the core of digital transformation, moving away from its traditional routing and switching heritage and into the world of cloud, SDN and NFV. Later in the year Cisco also announced massive lay-offs, partly as a response to this trend.
8. London Capital Group improves service deployment with SDN
Most experts still agree that SDN is still a service provider play first and foremost, and this consensus was again borne out in our recent IT Priorities report. However, that is not to say that enterprises are not already moving on SDN deployments. In September, Computer Weekly spoke to financial services firm London Capital Group, which replaced a legacy switched network with VMware’s NSX SDN platform, and has reaped the rewards.
9. How to add network flexibility by adding NFV
The world is becoming more mobile, cloud-based, flexible and agile, and traditional fixed networking infrastructure is not going to be much use for much longer. In October, Steve Evans returned to the theme of NFV, exploring how improving network flexibility using the latest solutions and standards can help usher in new ways of living and working that meets the needs of our always on, always evolving workforce.
The IoT has not offered all good news this year. Towards the end of 2016, the emergence of the Mirai botnet – a vast agglomeration of unsecured IoT devices – brought together both the industry’s hottest trend, and its biggest fear, and in October, a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on Dyn, a lynchpin in the global domain name system that powers the internet, took out huge numbers of websites. In this article, Dyn explained what went wrong.