The network in 2019: A guide

Azz-Eddine Mansouri, GM of sales at Ciena Middle East predicts what technologies he expects to flourish this year

Increased adoption of 5G networks will drive wider roll-out of AI, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies.
Increased adoption of 5G networks will drive wider roll-out of AI, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies.

Last year marked a ‘boom’ of technologies that are becoming increasingly more accessible both to businesses, as well as consumers, including artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality and augmented reality (AR). Looking ahead to 2019, we expect these technologies to flourish, supported by the increased adoption of 5G networks.

Here are some of the most anticipated tech trends that will become the pillar for another thrilling year in the tech industry:

The uptake of 5G

Some of the leading GCC countries are already furthering the deployment of 5G networks and according to the latest GSMA Report for the Middle East, by 2025, 15 markets will have launched 5G mobile services across the MENA region. As we know, 5G will provide the necessary backbone with the capacity to reach speeds as high as 10Gbps and support up to 100 times as many connected devices – satisfying the demand for consumer and industrial use cases in the region.

Despite the hype around 5G, it is important to note that the migration to 5G will be a multi-year journey full of both challenges and opportunities. 5G is not intended to outright replace past generations of mobile network technology (i.e. 4G, 3G, etc.) as there are still many parts of the world that predominately use 2G and 3G networks.  In fact, 5G is intended to co-exist alongside 4G and even 3G and 2G in some regions, which is why a high-performance wireline network is imperative. We are not just talking about a simple network upgrade for 5G – everything from handsets to data centres will have to change for successful 5G deployments this year and beyond. 

Artificial Intelligence gains momentum

Artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to play a critical role in the telecom and networking space as a fixer and optimiser to enhance IT operations. AI is an enabler of “advanced analytics” where, if implemented, systems are able to make assumptions, reassess or re-evaluate the situation and learn autonomously without any human interaction.

Gartner estimates that by 2022, 40% of all large enterprises will combine big data and machine learning functionality to support and partially replace monitoring, service desk and automation processes and tasks.  UAE is one of the countries where AI will have a bigger impact with an approximate 14% of 2030 GDP. This is followed by Saudi Arabia where AI’s contribution is forecasted to be 12.4% of GDP. These values are easily explained given their extensive investment in AI, placing UAE and Saudi Arabia within the top 50 countries in the world on the Global Innovation Index 2017 in terms of their ability to innovate and the outputs of their innovation.

Automation is also a great enabler of AI and, consequently, in 2019 networks need to be more automated and more intelligent in order to scale in the market. But autonomous networks are not the solution, as they rely on the elimination of all human intervention from the management and operations of the network. Although increased automation will drive significant benefits to the provider, most want to maintain various degrees of control. The answer to this is an Adaptive Network, which goes beyond simple autonomy by remaking the network into a dynamic, programmable infrastructure built on analytics and automation. Both automation and Adaptive network will allow service providers to be able to add fast provisioning and self-healing features to their infrastructure. I expect this to be a key driver in 2019.

AI-enabled Security

Security will always be top of mind across the telecom industry but with the rise in commonality and sophistication of threats, 2019 is set to be a key year in the fight against cyberattacks. Technology innovation—from cloud computing to the Internet of Things (IoT)—is expected to drive a 100x increase in connected devices and a 1,000x increase in data traffic by 2020. This development leads to an increase of network attacks, and cybercriminals are already using highly sophisticated methods to exploit this opportunity. 

However, AI will help attacking and defending against potential threats. In fact, many organisations will use AI to improve modes for detecting and responding to incidents. Additionally, we will start to see more AI-based tools that provide threat-hunting, attack analysis and incident response to proactively search for potential issues.

Enabling Blockchain

In 2019, more organisations will strive to explore other emerging technologies, such as blockchain. As technology continues to evolve, we become more connected; and identity/privacy protection becomes an increasing concern. From a networking perspective, having a more programmable and intelligent communication infrastructure will be key for applications like blockchain.

Many FinTech applications, including blockchain, require connectivity, and many distributed financial transactions today require data (including data for authentication, authorisation and accounting) that reside across multiple data centres. From a security perspective, there’s always the threat that those with nefarious intentions might disrupt a banking system through a DDoS attack on the network.

As we will continue to see the adoption of cloud, IoT and FinTech growing, it is crucial that enterprises recognise that scalable, programmable and simple connectivity, supported by wide-area networks whose services can be orchestrated end-to-end is the underpinning technology that supports their viability.  

Data centre interconnect

I believe that there will be a continued densification of data centres in 2019, along with a general move of content closer to the edge of the network, partially due the requirements of Cloud-based apps, 5G and fast response.

Research shows that the growth of data centres will continue to increase over the next several years. This year, the construction of data centres is forecast to be a $22.73 billion market. In addition, Forrester Research predicts that the public cloud market, a key driver for data centre growth, will reach $191 billion one year later, in 2020. That’s a lot of data centres to connect.

We live in a fast paced era where answering the demand for massive, high-quality, on-demand access to content is part of any enterprises’ business. Thus, the need to move it freely and securely across the network is exploding. And, while being easily accessible, it must be stored and protected, too. Data Centre Interconnect (DCI) plays a critical role in meeting the explosion of data and non-stop demand for cloud-based services.

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