Blog post

Network Predictions: Past and Future

By Andrew Lerner | December 07, 2021 | 0 Comments

Just Published

It’s that time of year for predictions. While most Gartner research notes already include predictions, once a year we publish research focused exclusively on predictions. One thing I’m proud of is that we re-visit past predictions, including incorrect ones. I’ve personally spot-checked our networking predictions over the past 5-8 years and the success rate is around 60-70%. The wrong ones are usually close and/or directionally correct (i.e., we predicted growth from 10 to 50% but it grew from 10 to 40%). However, this one specific prediction from yours truly in 2016 was a real doozyBy 2020, only 30% of network operations teams will use the command line interface (CLI) as their primary interface, down from 85% at YE16.

At the time, we estimated that 85% of network teams identified the CLI as their primary network operations interface, and, well, 2020 just seemed sooo far way…. Since then, and based on thousands of interactions with clients, research surveys and publicly available information (basically by any measurable means) this prediction was simply dead wrong. As of December 2021, we estimate that more than half of enterprises still associate the CLI as their primary operational network interface. So, while we’re not always right with predictions, we are transparent about them. So with that, we’ll make a new prediction, and it is a sassy one:

By 2025, 40% of enterprises will adopt software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and cloud-delivered secure web gateway (SWG) from the same vendor, up from less than 5% in 2021.

Why do we think this will happen? Well, most client inquiries discussing SD-WAN now also include discussion of secure web gateway (and vice versa). Further, organizations with a majority of applications in the public cloud and/or SaaS increasingly prefer using cloud-delivered security, instead of backhauling traffic or deploying local appliances. From the supply-side perspective, SD-WAN vendors are building out broader security offerings to include SWG, including Cisco, PAN, Cato, Citrix, Fortinet, Versa and VMware.

While many organizations are comfortable integrating their SD-WAN vendor with a separate SWG vendor such as Zscaler today, there is a strong desire to source the solution from a single provider. The rationale is that a single supplier will better enable integrated management, policy, visibility, commercial support and billing between SWG and SD-WAN.  Even if you disagree with this prediction, we strongly recommend you involve both networking and security teams when selecting or refreshing SD-WAN and SWG solutions. Avoid making strategic SD-WAN or SWG decisions in isolation. Here’s the full link to research (paywall):

Predicts 2022: Connecting the Digital Enterprise
Summary: For digital enterprises, the percentage of network traffic that rides the physical corporate network is decreasing. This is dramatically shifting traffic patterns, which requires I&O leaders to explore new approaches to provide secure network connectivity.

Regards, Andrew

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