Enterprise IT architectures have seen a seismic shift in the last few years as organizations increasingly migrate to SaaS applications and build more of their applications on IaaS and PaaS platforms. With this shift, the IT perimeter has moved well beyond the four walls of the enterprise and into external networks and services out of the direct control of IT. In this new model, network paths are more dynamic and include segments across both LAN, WAN, Internet, and SaaS and cloud networks.
The shift away from the traditional IT ecosystem accelerated significantly in 2020 and, as cloud migration and other digitization efforts became business-critical priorities overnight, companies are grappling with an increased dependency on the Internet as the delivery mechanism for employee and customer experiences. Adapting to this new environment is well underway and, in 2021, I believe we’ll see six trends take shape as more enterprises learn to manage this new level of reliance on the external networks and services that make up the cloud and Internet.
1) Internet dependence sends IT back to school
2020 made us all critically reliant on Internet connectivity, and for enterprises navigating the risks of outages, many learned the hard way that the Internet is a best-effort network made up of thousands of distinct providers, operating on the honor system when it comes to routing integrity. This past year saw significant Internet disruptions, including several caused by BGP hijacking. Although the biggest outage this year (which took down a good chunk of global traffic) wasn’t caused by a BGP hijack, it led to service provider CenturyLink/Level 3 accidentally hijacking its customers’ routes, causing widespread disruption. In 2021, we’ll see Internet literacy become a hot commodity skill for IT practitioners, which will enable businesses to quickly identify and address issues in external networks that are beyond their direct control and reduce the risks of downtime.
2) SD-WAN gets promoted to the home office
In 2021, as remote employees become a permanent fixture alongside (fewer) branch offices, more SD-WAN technology options will be rolled out for the home office. Security functionality has been a recent top priority for SD-WAN vendors, but we’ll see a shift in gears as vendors become increasingly pressured to provide solutions that are scalable enough to deploy in every employee’s home office environment. Rather than solely relying on VPNs to backhaul or split-tunnel traffic, enterprises will start to adopt centralized solutions to manage and enforce policies that route employee Internet traffic securely, with optimal performance.
3) FAANG will continue to sink its teeth into the Internet
This year, major software companies like Facebook, AWS, and Google continued to make significant investments in Internet infrastructure projects, including subsea cables like 2Africa and Grace Hopper. In 2021 and beyond, as online connectivity remains crucial to power consumer services and employee solutions, hyperscalers will expand into the role of connectivity leaders as they seek to provide better access to their services, which are increasingly powering much of the world's global online ecosystem.
4) API monitoring cleans house
Demand for touchless features like voice-controlled activation and contactless payments skyrocketed in 2020. This type of functionality will only accelerate in the months to come, requiring extended visibility into the backend systems that power these new embedded applications and the API integrations that run them. IoT and “smart device” application performance becomes contingent on third-party API reachability and performance over the Internet and cloud provider networks. In 2021, end-to-end monitoring capabilities, from backend to frontend, will become increasingly critical as touchless solutions become crucial in our everyday lives.
5) Hyperscalers hang ‘for rent’ signs on their networks
2020 has dramatically reaffirmed the role of the Internet as the lifeblood of many organizations’ operations. But the Internet is a complicated web of independent and interconnected service providers, any of which can impact the experience of users connecting to an application or site. As an alternative option and means of expanding monetization efforts, cloud providers and content delivery network (CDN) providers have been offering access to their private backbones with the promise of greater reliability and performance — for a fee. As uninterrupted digital experience continues to become critical to businesses, 2021 will see a growth in the number of companies that seek to avoid the vulnerabilities of the public Internet by paying for their own “private Internet.”
6) With the adoption of each new XaaS, collaboration across IT silos will increase
Cloud-based services are ubiquitous, and with each new as-a-service solution, collaboration between traditionally-siloed IT teams will increase as enterprises seek to maintain control of their digital experience. Migrating apps and services to the cloud means taking on a complex set of external, interdependent services — requiring a new level of actual human collaboration, be it network engineers, app developers, or security experts, to operate and manage them. Given that IT teams must operate in a highly collaborative way across functions, 2021 will see increased use of solutions that can serve as a common operating language across different IT domains. Monitoring technologies with cross-stack observability across external services will become part of the critical IT toolset, helping enterprise teams and even external providers quickly get on the same page to optimize and troubleshoot faster.
Angelique Medina is Director, Product Marketing, at ThousandEyes.