Networking: A peek into the future

Networking: A peek into the future

From new Wave 2 products to 4D networks and eXpressive Internet Architecture, we take a look at some of the key areas defining the future of networking.

Things have changed a great deal since boffins figured out that computers could talk to one another and invented networks. The story began way back in 1949 when the modem was invented to modulate digital data into sounds by Jack Harrington’s group at the Air Force Cambridge Research Center in the United States. We’ve come a long way since then. Modems and computers-to-computer communication became commercial only in the early 1950s.  The next big invention was the ARPANET, the project that came up with TCP/IP to connect computers around the world on a large scale. The rest as they say is history. Telephony, wireless connectivity, and data sharing have all gone through a revolution over the years.  From Local Area Networks (LAN) the world moved to Wireless LANs and Wide Area Networks (WAN). Today, we are talking about software defined WANs.

Moving forward it’s safe to assume that Wi-Fi will be the preferred way of accessing networks for most users, enterprise or individual, with wired ethernet at the backend facilitating interconnects. One distinct trend that will shape the future of networking is the shift from hardware to software defined networking. This approach will transform specialised hardware and local virtual machines into software hosted on the cloud. Networks of the future will be easier to manage, as third party cloud service providers will package them as services.

As the networks change, enterprises can expect increased resilience, security, and performance. Adoption of new standards like the Wave 2 IEEE 802.11ax, which will have 10 Gbps throughput, will make way for a range of new Wave 2 products that will help enterprises handle a slew of new devices that will form a part of the network. These could include IoT devices and sensors among others.

There are also numerous other projects underway that could throw up some exciting options for the way networking is being addressed today. A project at Washington University is focusing on reusing existing radio frequency signals instead of generating new ones. As this does not need any power to operate, networks could be extended to remote regions where power availability is low or even non-existent.

In another interesting project, Boston University, Carnegie Mellon, and University of Wisconsin-Madison are collaborating to bring out eXpressive Internet Architecture (XIA) that is expected to offer inherent support for communications between current communicating principals—including hosts, content, and services—while accommodating unknown future entities.

4D network is another research project underway at Carnegie Mellon. The project aims to replace the ageing Internet Protocol (IP), which is burdened with innumerable new applications. 4D refers to four networking planes, namely decision, dissemination, discovery, and data. This project intends to create a more efficient network that will also have higher levels of security.

The future of networking will also be driven by new advances in computing, like quantum computing, and processors that will provide superior processing power and communication capabilities than the X86 architecture being used today. The future of networking will be driven by the considerations of speed, increased functionality, and enhanced security.

Photograph: pikisuperstar/