It’s been a very exciting year for networking in Asia with numerous major trends gradually reshaping the telecoms and networking worlds – and the next twelve months promise to be equally exciting.
My top trend for 2018 has to be the continued digitization of the global economy; from transport, to dining, to even early robotization of the hospitality industry. Additionally, smart cities and 5G have occupied everyone’s attention for months with headlines appearing weekly in the press. Another trend we have seen is the continued investment in state-of-the-art data centers across the region and we’ve witnessed the collaboration of multinational companies in their creation. The growth continues to expand into more markets which means they may be poised for even bigger growth in the future.
Lastly, artificial intelligence (AI), while in its infancy, has the potential to revolutionize our world, and we expect to see significant investment and growth in adoption of AI tools by consumers and businesses alike.
Now let’s look at what 2019 has in store.
A move towards 5G
Pre-5G trials, proofs of concept, and hero experiments have been in the news for over a year. 5G is not intended as an outright replacement of past generations of mobile network technology, but rather to coexist alongside 4G, 3G and even 2G in many locations. The year ahead will see much wider 5G testing in the real-world to provide proof-of-concept of reliable wide-scale deployments. Network operators will adopt intelligent, automated, and adaptive technologies to enable lower costs as they evolve towards larger scale 5G deployments.
The easiest way to achieve this critical shift will be to overlay 5G on scale-augmented wireline network infrastructure already serving previous generations of wireless technology. We will begin to see operators leveraging existing optical networks to support M2M communications through densification and network slicing.
Smart city infrastructure buildout
Smart cities are on the rise all over Asia, and they will serve as beacons for the rest of the world. Ranging from Singapore to Tokyo, to Melbourne, to Weifang in Shandong Province in China, the ambitions of these municipalities will be a major factor affecting network development in the year ahead. For cities to be able to become ‘smart’ the first thing that needs to be in place is the network infrastructure, providing seamless, low-latency data transport for real-time analytics and decision making.
We are likely to see network infrastructure providers broadening their investments in software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV). These technologies will help drive dynamics services that converge wireline and wireless networks and tap into both pools of capacity in an on-demand basis, share resources as flexibly as possible, and help support smart cities.
Data center interconnect
The life-blood of much of the digital revolution is the data center, and its lifeline, the data center interconnect. Asia Pacific is the fastest growth region for data centers in the world right now, according to analyst firm Structure Research, which also projects that APAC will become the biggest data center market in the world in 2020. We’ve seen and will continue to see multinational companies, like Facebook, set up huge data centers not only in Singapore but also expanding into newer markets like Malaysia. Moving forward into the smart city era, distributed, interconnected data centers will be as essential to a city as water treatment and power grids.
The power of a data center is dependent of the network that interconnects it with its counterparts and end devices. Scaling these interconnects will continue to be an important focus for data center operators, content providers and other players in the months ahead. Specifically, data centers running critical government infrastructure systems that underpin smart cities, like smart grids and emergency alert systems, will need to be interconnected by networks that offer a high degree of network and service assurance.
Looking at all these trends and factors it is clear that we are entering an era of increasing complexity in network architecture and operations. From conversations with operators, carriers and other network players around the region, I believe that the most important priority is to simplify the network even as it scales to meet these new demands. That simplification must come from convergence in technologies and platforms, purpose-built platforms and automation. Services like the Internet of Things will place severe demands on any network in terms of scalability, and the challenge will be to simplify the infrastructure layer without taking away essential capabilities.
Onward and upward – bring it on 2019!
Anup Changaroth is Asia CTO of Ciena