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10 Networking Technology Trends & Predictions for 2016

Where are WiFi, switches, routers, software defined networking (SDN) and so much more heading in 2016? We're glad you asked. Here are ChannelE2E's Top 10 Networking Technology Predictions for 2016.

They include...

10. SMB WiFi Routers Get Disrupted: The high-end consumer and small business router markets have suffered from a lack of innovation. But that's about to change. Google's initial OnHub router wasn't all that impressive but continued improvements will make WiFi life better in the home. Also, AVG Technologies (which has stumbled with MSPs in the SMB market) will try to position its Chime WiFi router as a consumer market disrupter. Meanwhile, Datto will attempt to reinvent the SMB router market, where the so-called Datto Network Appliance (DNA) is expected to ship sometime in Q1 after a few months of delays for WiFi enhancements.

9. Northbound Interface (NBI) Trials Begin: The Northbound application programming interface (API) involves a software-defined networking (SDN) controller. The goal? Basically, NBI hopes to create a network application ecosystem. It's a lofty goal. But the progress seems promising.

8. Open Source Networking Continues to Expand: In addition to NBI, watch for open source controllers like the Open Network Operating System (ONOS), OpenDaylight and Ryu to make some noise. Also, Linux networking projects like IO Visor will turn some heads.

7. Facebook Drives A Wedge into the Networking Market: Keep a close eye on Facebook's ever-improving Wedge Switch -- which will jump to 100G performance this year. On the one hand, companies like Cisco Systems Inc. have a loyal channel following. But on the other, Facebook continues to build out its own data centers far faster than most traditional businesses. So there's got to be something to all this Switch talk...

6. Beyond Cisco Spark Collaboration: Speaking of Cisco Systems, the networking giant has launched several major "software" initiatives over the past two decades. Offering new software licensing models in 2015 was a bold step. But key product launches -- including the new Cisco Spark collaboration launch -- could be even bolder. Still, CEO Chuck Robbins won't stop there. Similar to how Cisco purchased small networking companies throughout the 1990s, watch for Cisco to buy small, cloud-based companies -- at least two per quarter -- in 2016.

5. Cisco ACI Catches On: Cisco's own spin on software-defined networking -- known as Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) -- will emerge as a potential de-facto standard. Keep an eye on major ACI partners like Microsoft, IBM and Red Hat. Surprises are coming...

4. RMM Will Double Down on Networking: Faced with a saturated PC and server management market, RMM (remote monitoring and management) companies will double down on the networking layer. Their platforms will evolve -- rapidly -- to more effectively monitor and manage the communication pipelines between mobile, on-premises and cloud systems. Startups like Auvik Networks will gain some attention, but established RMM players will also seek to make the network more reliable as well.

3. Network of Networks Emerge (Again): During the 1990s, Cisco described a world of internetworking -- where multiple departmental networks were linked together to create corporate networks, or even networks that spanned multiple companies. The Internet largely displaced that mindset, since the Web essentially became one network for all users. Still, the "network of networks" mindset will re-emerge again, as platforms like Equinix International Business Exchange (IBX) continue to expand.

2. Broadband Gets Redefined. Again: The FCC now considers broadband to be 25Mbps down and 3Mbps -- that's an increase from 4Mbps and 1Mbps, respectively. That's progress. But it won't be enough. Multiple trends converge will converge, including the Internet of Things, wearable devices, home electronics, sensors and far more. Like rush hour cars choking a highway, all that digital traffic will make today's broadband look like narrowband. The key takeaway? We'll all be willing to pay "just a bit more" for better connection speeds.

1. The SMB-SDN Disconnect Won't Matter: Most small businesses and many midsize organizations still won't know about SDN (software defined networking). The few who have heard of SDN won't care much about it. But that's okay. The real SDN opportunity across the SMB market involves service providers -- MSPs who deploy SDN in their own data centers, or leverage the technology while plugging into larger cloud providers.

Bonus: For day-to-day enterprise networking coverage, Jim Duffy will remain the author and reporter I turn to most often.

Note: ChannelE2E is running 2016 technology predictions throughout the month of December 2016. Submit predictions for consideration to [email protected]. Read all daily predictions here.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.