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Accelerating Transition to the New Normal: Top 5 Predictions for 2021

December 17, 2020 | Written by: Surinder Paul | , , , , ,

After the challenging events in 2020, the effects of the Covid pandemic will continue throughout next year, ensuring remote working & remote customers will remain in the limelight. In order to function, businesses will have no choice but to transform, both from organizational and societal viewpoints. The result will be rapid acceleration of digital transformation projects, covering key initiatives like edge computing, multi-cloud, zero-trust security, autonomous networks and infrastructure-as-code.

So as organizations continue their transition to the “new normal”, here are EfficientIP’s top 5 IT predictions for 2021:

Containers & Edge Will Become Strong Differentiators

The technical infrastructure solution for edge computing is progressing and operational ones are now available on the market either from vendor solutions or as DIY templates. These are mainly based on a combination of bare metal servers, OpenStack as a hypervision solution and containers with favorite flavors today going to Kubernetes.

In 2021, edge computing will continue to grow with solutions from cloud computing providers who want to differentiate themselves, and also from 5G telcos who will deploy infrastructure for their network operation and prepare private slicing offers. “By year-end 2021, more than 50% of large enterprises will deploy at least one edge-computing use case to support IoT or immersive experiences, versus fewer than 5% in 2019” (Gartner July 2020).

As we already foresee, DNS is a typical service that can be installed at the edge of the network, mainly for the recursive part, but also for security and application traffic routing purposes. Edge networking, edge computing and the adoption of containers as a resource sharing capability offer real opportunities for adding more elasticity and dynamic scalability to physical and virtual machine capacities.

The main benefit of having DNS services at the edge is to be able to increase velocity and lower response time. This will benefit new usages like machine-to-machine, vehicle-to-vehicle and communication between IoT devices for smart cities or utilities. It will also enable private slice adoption by corporations whenever these services become available from telcos. Embedding a DNS server in a container dedicated to the private slice will allow full integration to the customer’s network infrastructure, guaranteeing confidentiality (e.g. by using DoT and DoH) and specific configurations like firewalling and GSLB.

Multi-Cloud Takeup Will Rely on Cloud-Agnostic Solutions

The Covid pandemic has accelerated durable transition to remote working for positions that are compatible with and this trend is here to stay, meaning users need to be able to access critical apps and services from anywhere and at any time. Application distribution in multiple clouds and multi-homed is now commonly accepted from dev architecture to I&O teams, as it improves resiliency and optimizes access delay for distributed workforces, then cloud providers are expanding their offers for such integrated multi region hosting in order to protect their revenues.

In 2021, enterprises will continue their cloud journey with more providers for their IaaS and PaaS services in order to either focus on specialized ones or eliminate lock-in situations.

To avoid lock-in and allow easy distribution of users on application services, deploying multiple clouds and multiple locations is a valid solution. In addition, having already worked on automation and infrastructure as code now allows enterprises to easily think about switching from one cloud to another without hurdles in scales of hours rather than months. In addition to the big cloud players, some smaller and regional ones may also be selected for their service specificities and their data protection capabilities.

In order to further ease transition to multi cloud and better adoption of network automation, the network source of truth (NSoT) is a key element and therefore turns the spotlight onto the DDI solution which provides a central repository of IP information and other valuable items like devices, users and applications. In addition, it is important to use a cloud-agnostic DDI solution that brings global visibility, allows management of external resources and is fully meshed in the automation processes with other IT solutions through API and webhooks.

According to Gartner, 80% of companies were already using 2 or more public cloud providers in 2019. But being Cloud independent relies on capability to easily move from one to another – for that journey, automation is vital, with DDI being a fundamental pillar.

Zero Trust Security Will Benefit From Improved App Access Control

With more domain names being created and more devices joining the network (IoT, Edge, mobility) a zero trust approach has never been more important. Having to work remotely (home workers, remote clients, remote partners) has increased the vulnerability of every device. The principle of perimeter security – building a big wall to protect the village – therefore no longer holds true. Attacks such as Phishing, Ransomware and DDoS are therefore becoming more numerous and more impactful.

In 2021, stronger Zero Trust focus will be put on segmentation and filtering in order to improve control over which devices can access which apps, domains and services.
Current methods of restricting access using authentication leave the door open to malware attacks, and blacklisting via firewalls can only be applied to ALL clients. More granular control will start becoming introduced, requiring filtering at the client level (microsegmentation) to give only specific users access to selected apps.

A Smart DNS provides a new method for application access control. It offers the granular filtering capability necessary, by allowing creation of multiple client groups which can be mapped to multiple lists of blacklisted or whitelisted domains. Resolution of every DNS request coming from each user can then be adapted based on this mapping. This “Client Query Filtering” functionality will help organizations improve access control to vital apps and infrastructure, reduce exposure risk, and offer new B2B2C services such as internet access restriction, parental control, and enhanced IoT security against internal threats. Security of DNS is already recognized as being of high importance for 77% of companies (IDC 2020 Report), so adding filtering down to individual client level will strengthen it even further.

5G Networks Will Become More Autonomous

Networks are being modified now more than ever, driven by digital transformation projects for enterprises, and rollout of 5G for telcos. By 2023, 5G is forecast to account for nearly 15% of global subscriptions (excluding IoT), amounting to 1.31Bn subscribers (Ovum 2019 report). In many of these service provider networks, activities such as planning, configuration management, service delivery and network operations are still largely being performed manually. But due to the volume and complexity of their operations, the consequent service delays, time-consuming tasks and configuration errors means this is no longer acceptable. Success of 5G will depend largely on automation and orchestration.
In 2021, autonomous networks will come to the forefront to help accelerate service deployment and improve operational efficiency. Telcos striving towards zero touch operations will automate more and more processes and workflows, helped by moving their network functions to a virtualized model (VNF). Automatic instantiation and dynamic scaling will be essential and key to realizing 5G private slice offers for organizations and IoT use cases, as well as for temporary events or occurrences, such as the Olympics site coverage, or natural disaster backbone recovery.

Automated DDI, incorporating DNS VNFs, enables the autonomous networks that telcos require, bringing them instant scaling in the core and at the Edge. Having the ability to dynamically scale network functions up and down brings significant cost reduction while ensuring service quality and improved customer experience. And with the IP Address Management (IPAM) functionality of DDI offering “IP Source of Truth” inventory data for their networks, end-to-end automation of IP network provisioning and configuration becomes possible, enabling zero touch network and service management (ETSI ZSM).

Infra-as-Code and API will Become Industrialized (Real)

Automation can be started by companies of any size or maturity by making use of infrastructure-as-code, with the recommended approach being to automate single tasks rather than a global complex workflow. Infrastructure-as-code approach creates opportunities for standard deployments – reproducible operations and error-free actions help preparation in case of problem, which is exactly what small teams require for their day to day operations and problem handling.

2021 will be the year when network and IT automation teams make significant progress regarding process efficiency and their ability to handle increasing complexity. It can still be scary for I&O teams as automation implementation is complex and many initiatives prioritize tools over skills and processes. Gartner emphasizes that “By 2025, more than 50% of the G2000 will have a dedicated automation group, up from less than 10% in 2020, which culminates in agility and cost efficiencies.”

DDI is the IP source of truth, providing tons of valuable and accurate information and can be used in most infrastructure automation procedures for manipulating IP addresses, devices, DNS records, VLan and more. IPAM is probably an easy first step in the automation journey, it can be used with read access to build reports, analysis and automation with external systems. Next, it can be used with modification accesses in order to keep the repository accurate for the entire automation process within the IT infrastructure. When it comes to network service activation, DDI automation is a foundational service, so using a solution which provides openness with API, standard configuration method, webhook and available code samples is important for moving towards automation and helping increase the learning curve of I&O teams through small but valuable increments.

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