When it comes to networking in 2015, what's old is new again. Trends and topics that networking professionals have known for a decade or more will be top-of-mind this new year.
While much of the networking hype in the last several years has been about Software Defined Networking (SDN) and more recently Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), there are deeper underlying trends that will manifest in 2015.
Fundamentally, the promise of SDN that various vendors have evangelized is that of network agility. More often than not, though, the tried and true VLAN, a technology that predates the modern SDN hype, has proved to be more than sufficient to provide the agility than many organizations need.
What is difficult is managing policy across a distributed network, not just for quality of service and bandwidth, but for security and access control as well. Before the SDN hype, there was an era of hype around Network Access Control (NAC). While NAC hype has long since died down, the fundamental feature set is still valuable and is often just baked into networking best practices, hardware and software today. The same will likely be true with SDN increasingly in 2015. SDN, like NAC before it, will become a feature of broader network policy.
Managing networking policy is something that networking professionals have always had deal with, whether it's command line-driven access control lists (ACLs) or integrations with Radius and AAA servers. As cloud (both private, public and hybrid) becomes increasingly mainstream, the need and the technologies to manage distributed networking policy across all deployment types will be a key challenge and trend.
From a technology perspective, there will be multiple vendors and efforts in 2015 pushing their respective visions for policy management. Cisco has its ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure) driven by its APIC (Application Policy Infrastructure Controller) as well as the open-source Group Policy initiative.
VMware has been leading the Congress effort within the OpenStack cloud community. The effort promises a simpler policy language and environment for management of distributed network policy. VMware is also helping to lead the Geneve (Generic Network Virtualization Encapsulation) protocol, which could also help to extend networking as a superset of VXLAN and NVGRE protocols.
Continued efforts around network policy won't be the only top-of-mind issue in 2015. IPv6 will once again be a topic of conversation and debate within networking organizations. For years, whether or not IPv6 will be deployed and used within enterprises has been a question.
No doubt, IPv6 usage will increase in 2015 as the big carriers deploy it for mobile devices and as Asia's Internet demands grow.
That said, the simple truth is that while IPv6 is widely supported on consumer operating systems, yet it is not widely supported within IT organizations. IPv4 address space and the ability of Network Address Translation (NAT) will likely continue to enable organizations to avoid IPv6 in 2015.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.