Five big stories in network virtualization in 2016 may grow into even bigger stories in 2017. These stories run the gamut from mergers, to the unfolding science of artificial intelligence (AI), to political events that may influence cyber security.
Here are the five biggest network stories from the old year that are bleeding into the year to come:
1. Cyber Security Rises in Prominence
The second half of 2016 saw some breathtaking security breaches.
In September a website that publishes news and information about security got (ironically) hit with a 620 Gb/s distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. The Mirai malware that hit the KrebsOnSecurity website enlisted unsecure Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are connected to networks and used them as “bots” to bombard a targeted site with requests.
Mirai struck again in October causing disruptions to several major Internet sites, including Twitter and Netflix. The DDoS attack enlisted a large number of IoT devices that were constantly querying a domain name service (DNS) provider, making it impossible to translate Internet addresses into IP addresses so that networks could route traffic.
Also in the second half of 2016, Yahoo revealed two major security breaches. In September it said that 500 million of its accounts were compromised during 2014. The unknown culprit gained information about Yahoo users’ names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and answers to security questions. Yahoo stated the breach was likely the work of a state-sponsored actor.
Then, as if that weren’t bad enough, recently Yahoo disclosed a breach dating back to August 2013 that appears to have affected 1 billion accounts.
As a backdrop to these high-profile attacks on web companies, the political press reported about cyber-attacks on the Democratic National Committee by Russian hackers.
As 2016 came to an end, the investigations into political hacking continued. And while attacks on Twitter and Netflix cause inconvenience, and even an attack on 1 billion Yahoo accounts doesn’t cause too much of a kerfuffle, the attacks that may have affected the outcome of the U.S. election are a very big deal to many people.
Suddenly, cyber security is interesting.
From a networking perspective, it looks like 2017 will be the year when cyber security attains priority status.
2. Dell Plus EMC
Dell completed its $67 billion acquisition of EMC on September 7. As part of the deal, Dell also got the EMC federation companies, VMware, Pivotal, and RSA. Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell Technologies, has boasted the company is well-positioned in strategic growth areas, including software-defined data center (SDDC), hyper-converged infrastructure, hybrid cloud, and security.
Before the merger even closed, Michael Dell promised that the combined company would quickly produce jointly engineered products. And Dell Technologies has lots of pieces and parts to innovate with. For example, it can now combine Dell’s servers with EMC storage technology and VMware virtualization software.
For its first joint offering Dell announced it had updated EMC’s VxRack hyperconverged infrastructure product. The new VxRack with SDDC incorporates a Dell server, and it also runs VMware’s Cloud Foundation.
Undoubtedly, 2017 will be a year in which Dell Technologies co-engineers more products. And the company now has both the hardware and software to power traditional data centers as well as new hybrid cloud environments.
3. Broadcom Acquires Brocade
Speaking of new environments, the world of IP networking equipment could get smaller in 2017. When Broadcom announced it was buying Brocade, it said it would sell Brocade’s IP networking assets. Those assets include routing and switching technology, virtualization software, and the Ruckus Wireless business, which Brocade acquired earlier this year. The routing, switching, and virtualization software are valued at roughly $1 billion, while the Ruckus assets account for about $1.2 billion.
It’s anyone’s guess who might pick up the Ruckus assets. But as for the balance of the networking assets, the fact that Brocade is going away means the switching/routing ecosystem is likely to shrink.
Analysts speculate that a networking competitor might pick up the Brocade assets. Candidate names being bandied about include Cisco, Juniper, Arista, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, IBM, Huawei, Dell, or Extreme Networks. But unless a dark horse rides in to take Brocade’s assets — such as Arris Group — the end result is likely to be one less switching/routing vendor in the marketplace.
4. Artificial Intelligence Gets Real
It became apparent in the latter half of 2016 that the time for artificial intelligence (AI) is nigh.
At Amazon re:Invent in Las Vegas, Amazon Web Services (AWS) introduced three new AI and machine learning services to help developers create new applications based on images, text, and audio. Some of AWS’ innovation builds on its Alexa technology, the cloud-based voice service that powers Amazon Echo.
In December Google announced it would open-source its DeepMind Lab platform. The platform helps computers educate themselves. It does this by training AI agents. DeepMind now resides on GitHub.
Another big name—Microsoft—created an AI and Research Group, gathering more than 5,000 computer scientists and engineers. The group includes the engineering teams for the company’s Cortana personal assistant and Bing search engine. The group will work on products and also conduct basic research. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said he wants the company to “democratize” AI. By that he means he wants AI to analyze big data for the benefit of consumers and businesses.
5. Network Virtualization at Telcos
Finally, several of the most popular stories on SDxCentral in 2016 pertained to the work of major telcos to virtualize their networks.
In April, Verizon coyly unveiled its SDN–NFV Reference Architecture document. This followed AT&T’s announcement in March of its Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management, and Policy (ECOMP) platform.
At SDxCentral we closely follow the bread-crumb trail left by these telcos as they take their virtualization journeys. For example, in August we published a story about all the known vendors involved with AT&T and Verizon in their virtualization efforts.
This story obviously continues into 2017—and beyond.