Emerging standards for WiFi, Ethernet and more are poised to shatter the limitations of enterprise networking.
A fantastic way to project where the future of enterprise networking is headed is to monitor new standards that impact network hardware and software either directly or indirectly. For example, while changes to the 802.11 WiFi standard directly impact networking, new encryption standards and compression codecs have an indirect impact.
It’s important to note how standards get started, and why they’re necessary. For the most part, a new network or protocol standard comes about for one of two reasons. Either there is a new technology trend or an evolution in a preexisting technology that requires updates to an existing standard. IoT can be considered a new IT movement that is causing us to create new network standards that can handle the capacity and low-bandwidth communications of such devices. On the other hand, newly proposed WiFi standards are typically created to tear down limitations found in previous standards. Either way, standards are necessary so networking vendors can create hardware and software that are compatible with one another.
On the following pages, we’ll take a look at eight up-and- coming network standards that will break through current limitations. We'll examine networking standards at the edge, in the data center, and even out to the cellular and broadband carrier level. Each one can have a significant impact on how you handle networking projects in 2016 and beyond.
Which standards do you think will have the biggest impact for you in the near future? Let us know in the comments section.
Because WiFi technologies are becoming the primary connection method for many end devices these days, WiFi networks are being upgraded to 802.11ac speeds. The problem is, the most commonly deployed wired Ethernet WAP connection to the corporate network remains at 1 Gbps. Theoretical 802.11ac speeds far surpass that limitation. The end result is a bottleneck on the network. Because of this, two industry initiatives formed to begin the groundwork for developing wired Ethernet that can operate at 2.5 and 5 Gbps. The goal is to make the adoption of 11ac economical by enabling reuse of the Cat5e cabling that traditional 1/100/1000 Ethernet utilizes. That way, you won’t have to replace your physical cable plant. This effort has shifted over to the IEEE; look for 802.3bz to be standardized in September 2016.
QCR data encryption
The No. 1 security tool available for businesses today is encryption. Recommended encryption standards virtually guarantee that your data is safe from prying eyes. But as of this point in time, we don’t yet have quantum computing. And the concern is that quantum computers will one day be here and be able to crack many encryption standards upon which we rely. That’s why there is an increased focus to standardize new encryption methods that are quantum computing resistant (QCR). Cisco provides a comparison of current and next-gen data encryption standards that are thought to be quantum computing resistant.
NB-LTE for cellular-connected IoT
The majority of first-generation IoT devices will likely send/receive infrequent, low-bandwidth transmissions. Because of this, it makes little sense to deploy them onto 4G LTE networks that were designed with high-speed connectivity in mind. Narrowband LTE (NB-LTE) is expected to address this concern. NB-LTE is specifically designed to connect high concentrations of devices per cell at a reduced bandwidth rate and with reduced power requirements. While there are competing standards out there, big-name vendors including Intel, Qualcomm and Nokia are already backing the NB-LTE protocol.
25 Gigabit Ethernet
We already have 40 and 100 Gigabit Ethernet in the data center, so why do we need the new 25 Gigabit Ethernet standard? It really comes down to cost. While upgrading a data center to 40 GbE capable switches sounds great, it’s much too expensive for many situations. Because of that, data centers have chugged along using the next fastest alternative -- 10 GbE. While these speeds have worked in the past, 10 GbE is falling short in many blade server farms that are designed with top-of-rack (ToR) switching architectures. What ends up happening is that administrators are forced to combine multiple 10 Gbps links to prevent bottlenecks from the server to the ToR switches, again adding to the overall cost. 25 GbE will fill the gap and should cost about the same as 10 GbE technology.
802.3bt: More PoE options
The convenience, reliability and dependability of Power over Ethernet (PoE) is well known to those who use it. The biggest drawback, however, has been the fact that the most recent PoE standard – 802.3at – had a maximum output per port of 25.4 watts. While this is sufficient for low-power devices such as WiFi access points, security cameras and LED lighting, the power output isn’t sufficient for other things such as point-of-sale machines, many medical devices and even PCs and Internet kiosks. The new 802.3bt standard will up the ante by providing a minimum of 49 watts per port, with the capability to move up to nearly 100 watts. It does so by using all four pairs of a twisted pair cable as opposed to just two pair. And the best part is that you very likely can reuse the same Cat 5/6 cabling you already have when the standard is finalized.
Royalty-free 4K video compression standards
Video collaboration and video streaming continues to gain in popularity within enterprise organizations. Not only are today’s video conferencing devices becoming far easier to use, the video and audio quality have significantly increased over time. But one major stumbling block that's preventing videoconferencing and video streaming systems from making the leap to 4K video has to do with the royalties that come along with using the leading 4K compression codec. Fortunately, Cisco stepped up to the plate last summer to spearhead an initiative to develop a royalty-free and open-source alternative for 4K and higher video compression. It’s very likely that some or all of this work will end up as an IETF standard, and significantly reduce the cost of videoconferencing and streaming services in the near future.
As our workforce becomes more mobile and we blur the lines of the enterprise network, last-mile bandwidth becomes an increasingly big problem. Working out of small, remote offices or homes that have limited bandwidth is an issue that can prevent users from successfully performing their job duties. That’s why it’s so exciting to see new standards such as version 3.1 of the Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, which Comcast is now rolling out to customers in certain areas. The DOCSIS 3.1 standard can operate at 1 Gbps today with the capability grow up to 10 Gbps in the future. For enterprise network administrators who manage remote sites using cable providers, this is wonderful news.