Networks are changing – and that’s not news to anyone in our industry. We’ve talked about their constant transformation, their ability to stretch across the enterprise and their need to operate at increasing speeds.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming reality, as previously unconnected devices now connect to the Internet, gathering and creating new data. Almost all IoT connections are made using IP, which theoretically allows tens of billions of devices to connect to one common network. In fact, Gartner predicts that more than 20 billion IP-enabled devices will be connected to our networked society by 2020 – just four years from now!

Your company’s network will have no choice but to adapt and scale to accommodate the explosion of IP-based devices inside and outside your building.

So what does the future of networks look like? These are the factors we think will impact the way our networks look in the next decade.

Preparing for the Future with 8-Fiber-Based Connectivity TechnologyA Mobile Working Style

With mobility providing the capability to work whenever and wherever users want – and on the device(s) of their choice – employees and employers are becoming more efficient and productive. Underneath these devices and the Internet of Things, of course, is the network that must support this connectivity. The wireless LAN industry continues to evolve to keep up, with 802.11ac Wave 1 and Wave 2 specifications hitting the market. A wireless network that is optimized for an IoT environment can’t be built on outdated standards, speeds or bandwidth capabilities.

Mobility provides the capability to work whenever and wherever users want.

Wireless has become ubiquitous, enabling almost any device to connect – but not all wireless solutions are the same. Because wireless standards have various release cycles, an early version of 802.11ac, for example, may not perform as well as a later version. While several vendors may offer 802.11ac products, actual speed can be different based upon when the products were released.

Wireless networks will no longer be considered an “addition” to a wired LAN. To help companies improve communications, expand their reach and continue on a path to increased productivity, providing employees access to all applications on any device will be absolutely crucial. A mobile-first strategy will be mandatory, with the ability to function just like the wired network.

The WiFi Alliance recently announced that WiFi device shipments will surpass 15 billion units in 2016. In a recent study, Dell’Oro predicted that 2016 will be the year that the number of active connections through wireless LAN surpasses the number of active connections through wired LAN in the enterprise.

A Shift to the Cloud

Mobility is a powerful tool on its own, but when paired with cloud computing, the growth and productivity opportunities will present options we couldn’t fathom even five years ago. 

For the next few years, it’s likely that most companies will use a mix of on-premise and cloud for IT applications, storage, compute workloads and operational systems, but we think the cloud model will provide a good alternative to owning, managing and upgrading your own internal network infrastructure. The cloud can offer more flexibility and reduced IT costs, both in terms of capital purchases and labor costs associated with maintenance.

Capturing and Using Data

It’s important to remember that the billions of devices we keep talking about will not only connect to the network, but produce massive amounts of data using built-in sensors. You’ve probably already seen an example of this in action, especially if your building uses sensors to automatically adjust HVAC or lighting levels, for example. Data is being collected from several devices and systems, providing more actionable information to support our business decisions.

As more data is collected, network security becomes increasingly important. A lot of this data contains sensitive company, employee and customer information – when transmitted over the wireless network, you must ensure that the data is secure to protect workers and organizations, and to meet necessary regulatory requirements.

When it comes to wired and wireless networks of the future, the bottom line is this:

  • More devices than people will be connected
  • Mobile connections will outnumber fixed connections
  • Remotely powered connections through PoE will surpass locally powered connections

Belden offers complete end-to-end solutions to support the mission-critical needs of wired and wireless LANS, and their emerging application demands. Click here to learn more about creating a futureproof network that can support more people, devices and systems!

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