What a decade it’s been. From global adoption of smartphones, to the penetration of AI into our businesses and homes, and the now-total ubiquity of cloud usage, apps, and social media, it’s easy to forget how much has changed in the last ten years. So, what’s next?

Here at Cisco we like to take the ‘long view’. Many of our predictions from last year – regarding dramatic expansion in mobile connectivity; continued development in the use of AI/ML; and the evolution towards true multi-domain architectures – will continue to be relevant for years to come.

So, which trends do we think are particularly worthy of mention this year? Below are some predictions for 2020 and beyond.

We need to build an Internet for the future

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century technological innovation shows no sign of slowing down. Digital transformation is taxing today’s Internet infrastructure to its breaking point, and we’re about to hit an innovation barrier. We need to develop an Internet for the future.

By 2023, there will be 49 billion devices connected to the internet. Over the next decade we will see the emergence and development of a range of technologies, from virtual and augmented reality, to 16K streaming, AI, 5G, 10G, quantum computing, adaptive and predictive cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles and intelligent IOT. Perhaps just as important are the applications and technologies that haven’t yet been thought of.

These future generations of applications will drive requirements and complexity beyond the capabilities current internet infrastructure can viably support. As we move into this new decade we need to rethink and reinvent the infrastructure of the Internet. We need to make it faster, more scalable, more economical, and simpler to manage and secure.

Cisco has recently announced its plan for building the Internet for the next decade of digital innovation. The core of this ‘Internet for the Future’ technology strategy is based on development investments in silicon, optics, and software that will allow us to meet this future head-on.

Application Loyalty is the New Brand Loyalty

When you think of a business these days, chances are you think of the way you interact with them digitally, be it via an app or a website, and how easy and pleasant an experience you have via that first touchpoint.

According to the latest findings of the AppDynamics App Attention Index, the use of digital services has evolved to become an unconscious human behavior – a ‘Digital Reflex.’ In the past, consumers used to make a conscious decision to use a digital service to carry out a task or activity. Today, the majority (71%) of respondents admit that digital services are intrinsic to their daily lives.

The research shows that people will quickly turn their back on brands whose apps do not offer a premium experience. In the event of performance issues, consumers will turn to the competition (49%) or actively discourage others from using a service or brand (63%), without even giving the business a chance to make improvements.

Therefore, in 2020 and beyond, businesses need to pay attention to consumers’ zero-tolerance for anything other than an easy, fast and exceptional digital experience. This will make the ability to analyse data on application performance in real-time of critical importance, to find bottlenecks and enable immediate action.

Threat Hunting, Zero Trust & Co.

At a time when cybercrime has grown to such an extent that it costs economies three times more than natural disasters globally, the demands on security are constantly growing. Reactive security, largely addressing problems only as they begin impacting systems, is not enough anymore. Organisations need to live with the new reality around “Zero Trust” and get ahead of the threats.

The original Zero Trust model, conceived by Forrester, is based on the principle that organizations do not trust anything inside or outside their network perimeter. Access is only granted to authorized users, devices and workloads after establishing trust and preventing threats — all without a decline in the user experience. This approach may become almost ubiquitous in the coming years.

In addition, Threat Hunting will play an increasingly large role in organisations’ holistic security postures. While traditional approaches typically respond to alerts after detecting potentially harmful activity, Threat Hunting goes beyond known dangers and analyzes the unknown.

The goal of Threat Hunting is to discover new, as-yet unknown malware and vulnerabilities. Even if no malware is detected, Threat Hunting will often identify vulnerabilities that require new policies. As such, this regular search for danger leads to an overall reduction in the number of potential attack vectors.

Experts at Cisco Talos have created an e-book, Hunting for Hidden Threats, that outlines how Threat Hunting pays off, who needs to participate, and the ‘what, where and when’ of what to look for. In addition, it compares this approach with other security methodologies such as incident response, penetration testing or risk management.

Networking Trends: the journey towards Intent-Based Networks

Networks have never been more critical to businesses. Their value has extended well beyond connecting devices and locations. Today, the network plays a critical role in re-imagining applications, securing data, transforming infrastructure and empowering teams.

In recent years, discussions in the industry have revolved around the role of Software-defined Networks (SDN) as an important next phase of network’s evolution. SDN brings many advantages, including centralized management and security, flexibility and reduced operating costs.

At Cisco, we don’t see SDN as an end-stage, rather an important step in the necessary journey of networking infrastructures towards true Intent-Based Networking (IBN) –systems that use AI and Machine Learning to anticipate actions, detect and resolve anomalies automatically, stop security threats in their tracks, and which continue to evolve and learn.

Takeup of SDN has been strong. Of the over 2,000 IT leaders and network strategists surveyed in the Cisco Global Networking Trends report, 41 percent have SDN in at least one of their network domains. That said, only 4 percent believe their networks are truly intent-based today. However, it’s clear that technologists agree that IBN will play a big role in their immediate future. 78 percent stated that they believe their networks will move towards service-driven and intent-based networks within two years. In fact, 35 percent believe their networks will be fully intent-based within the same period.

In IT, shortage in business skills will now be felt most acutely

Talent continues to be the No. 1 challenge that IT leaders face today. In a Cisco survey of 600 IT and business decision makers, 93% claim to have a talent gap so serious that it slows their business’ transformation.

What is changing, however, is the nature of the types of roles that are most in demand. It should be no surprise that roles related to obvious growth areas, such as data science and AI, continue to be in increasingly high demand. However, to meet the needs of today’s businesses, IT needs to change from “order takers” to strategic business partners. That means changing the day-to-day roles of IT workers from configuring devices to solving business problems with technology.

In Cisco’s survey, IT and business executives agreed that the biggest issue facing technology leaders is a lack of business acumen. Accordingly, the biggest hiring priority for IT and business executives moving forward is sourcing employees with both technical and business skills.

How will this need be met in the future? Companies that were successful in their business transformation efforts showed a general preference for retraining IT for business skills, over hiring or outsourcing, thus preserving knowledge of the organization its culture, and its values.


[You can see more of Cisco’s predictions for 2020 in our ‘What’s ahead for 2020‘ post on The Network.]