This year saw remarkable strides in AI and quantum computing, among other technologies. These advances are nothing less than revolutionary and have triggered rapid innovations in the way businesses of all sizes and sectors connect and operate. The acceleration of new use cases is prompting businesses to rethink their current connectivity strategies and develop new infrastructure to accommodate their rollout. To remain competitive, companies are harnessing emerging technologies to further their digital transformation, reduce friction, and automate operations within their organizations. Here are five trends that will define digital decision-making in the coming year.
1. Operationalizing low-latency AI delivery, and ramping up interconnect services
2023 was the year that generative artificial intelligence (AI) hit the mainstream, with several models becoming available for general use. For those who can leverage it effectively, AI confers a competitive edge. However, a lack of internal computing resources currently hinders many companies from developing and operationalizing AI models fully. For them – the vast majority of businesses – AI as a service (AIaaS) providers are proving a viable and valuable alternative. They rely on optimized, low-latency connectivity so in 2024, with the increasing use of AI-supported services, expect increased investment in AI interconnect services that optimize data pathways and connect directly and securely with external AI models or service offerings.
2. Zoning in on AIOps to improve connectivity across increasingly complex networks
AI in IT operations – or AIOps – is an area that has been much talked about and is now beginning to show real potential as a tool for improving the performance of networks. Although AIOps covers all aspects of IT operations, it is the network ops component that is attracting a lot of attention currently. AIOps helps network engineers manage increasingly complex, distributed, multi-cloud network environments through automation, predictive analytics, and root cause analysis on the basis of big data and machine learning. Currently, only around 4% of enterprises have rolled out AIOps organization-wide. However, it’s a market that’s growing rapidly (24% CAGR) with many more companies (15%) having implemented AIOps proofs of concept and a further 29% actively evaluating use cases for future implementation. AIOps is still not widespread, but with many major deployments scheduled for 2024, this is the year this trend will become a competitive differentiator.
3. Extending, simplifying, and speeding up connectivity using SD-WAN exchanges
SD-WAN is proving a game-changer for connectivity, and large enterprises have been quick to take advantage of its benefits, which include better network reliability, improved performance, increased agility, and lower OpEx. By the start of 2024, 5,000 of the world’s largest enterprises will have SD-WAN at 61% of their WAN sites, growing to 81% by 2026, according to TeleGeography.
As the software-based overlay that separates the control plane from the underlying network infrastructure, SD-WAN is technology agnostic. It can function with agility over multiple network technologies, such as last-mile Internet connectivity via broadband or 4G LTE/5G. This has huge implications for the way enterprises roll out connectivity because of the potential for internet exchanges to become SD-WAN exchanges. The first SD-WAN exchange solutions are expected in 2024, which means that enterprises will be able to use their SD-WAN technology of choice for either cloud connectivity, for peering, or to route between different SD-WAN technologies.
4. Securing post-quantum communications with Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) If quantum computing still sounds like sci-fi to many, 2023’s record levels of investment in quantum start-ups suggest the reality of post-quantum communications is close at hand. The next big wave in computing is coming, but first businesses need to address the challenge of securing confidential communications. Quantum key distribution (QKD) is an encryption technology that can overcome
this barrier, provided the quantum computing ecosystem can reliably create the conditions necessary for decoding the signals, which is much harder than decoding traditional network technology signals. Only completely unobstructed fiber can be used for the networks to function effectively, and quantum repeaters will be needed every 80 kilometers. We’ve seen quantum computing shift from theory to testing in the last few years. Finally, in 2024 we will see productive quantum networks being built in Europe to test QKD over longer distances, a challenge yet to be solved conclusively. The quantum internet will require new approaches to interconnection to ensure data pathways are optimized to minimize the distance communications have to travel.
5. Radically reimagining enterprise network connectivity with NaaS
The rise of Network as a Service (NaaS) provides enterprises with a more flexible, scalable, and cost-effective approach to managing their network infrastructure. By outsourcing the building and management of their WAN to a service provider, NaaS unifies concepts such as pay-as-you-go, API-based operations, self-service, automated ad-hoc provisioning, and a broad set of interconnection services all in one bundle. NaaS providers are now rivaling traditional carriers in the breadth and scale of their global networks. Capable of supporting multinational organizations to connect sites such as offices, manufacturing plants, and their distributed workforces, NaaS offerings are experiencing rapid adoption. Expect this trend to come of age in 2024.
An exciting year ahead for connectivity
2024 will see the evolution of technologies that have been long in the making. As the technologies mature, use cases develop and investment pours in, we can expect exciting, practical advances in the areas of generative AI, enterprise AI services, SD-WAN, and quantum computing. All these technologies are now at a point of development where they are able to deliver improved performance and competitive edge, and address long-standing challenges around connectivity. In 2024, digital technology has the power to bring people closer together, breaking down barriers and enabling access to content, applications, and services.