2014 should be a defining year in the network and communications industry with consumer and business Ethernet IP traffic projected to continue its exponential growth. Here are my four top predictions of what 2014 will bring:
1. Mobile devices call AAA
According to Cisco’s recent Visual Network Index, mobile devices/connections will exceed 10 billion by 2017. This growth inherently increases the network’s vulnerabilities since hypothetically hackers only need an IP address. With new mobile devices and bandwidth-intensive applications come more small cells to support traffic, proliferating the number of elements needed for mobile networks to function.
These access points can be anywhere -- a lamppost, traffic signal, etc. -- making them obvious security risks. These last mile links will require strong encryption, not only for data confidentiality but also for authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA). Expect to see security encryption directly at the Ethernet layer, enabled by the latest MACsec technologies.
2. Carriers dial up NFV
The single largest benefit of software-defined networking (SDN) for carriers is its potential to use a single physical network as the basis of multiple, virtual private networks. The potential cost sharing advantage is huge, if multiple customers and service providers can securely share the same network. However, to do this, the entire network would need to support SDN.
In contrast, network-function virtualization (NFV) may be less risky, less expensive, and quicker for carriers to implement. With NFV-ready equipment, carriers can offer new revenue-generating services by creating them in software, rather than hardware. For this reason, we expect more carrier attention to NFV and its possibilities in 2014.
3. IoT goes IP
Our world is more connected than ever both in consumer and business realms. Morgan Stanley projects that by 2020, 75 billion devices will be connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). In addition to being networked, these devices will need to be accessible securely from any location, at any time.
Increased networking demands and higher bandwidth are prompting a transition away from proprietary communications to standards-based Ethernet. Fortunately, many of the same Carrier Ethernet capabilities developed for other applications -- including low power, accurate time synchronization, security, and deterministic behavior -- are equally applicable and will become pervasive in IoT networks.
4. Share 4G, then go to 5
While we’re starting to hear about 5G, it’s ill-defined beyond a requirement for more bandwidth. I expect 5G will not fully develop until 2020.
However, the network upgrades needed for 5G will pose a prime opportunity for consolidating network access -- wireline, wireless, and nomadic -- especially in the near term. Sharing radio-access network infrastructure will be the first step, with select operators leasing capacity. Expect to see more of this in 2014.
— Martin Nuss, Ph.D., is Vice President, Technology and Strategy and Chief Technology Officer at Vitesse Semiconductor.