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Time stands still for no one – and for no network either. If there’s one lesson that emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that large-scale change can happen without warning. If your network can’t adapt quickly and efficiently, you’ll be left by the wayside.

For example, while your organization may already have tapped the power of the Internet of Things and edge computing (perhaps even enhanced by the speed and stability of private 5G) in the quest for digital transformation, this does not automatically make you future-proof.

Watching the trends

A new NTT ebook, The Future of Networking in 2025 and Beyond, looks at the trends that are likely to have the biggest impact on CIOs and information technology in the next few years. These trends include:

1. The hyper-distributed workforce

Post-pandemic, people in many industries will continue to work in a flexible way as they move between their homes and their workplace, or sign on from hotels, trains and other locations. This workforce distribution will become more global in nature as organizations in need of specific skills look beyond traditional geographic boundaries.

Organizations that embrace this trend will be able to access a much broader talent pool and be more attractive to prospective employees. If executed well – through networks that make hyper-distributed working seamless and secure, and which support collaboration tools that make remote workers feel like part of the team – it will drive higher levels of employee satisfaction and productivity. Networks that enable immersive, high-definition collaboration will underpin the employee value proposition for organizations fighting over top talent.

2. Multicloud adoption

Migration to a multicloud architecture is becoming a critical strategy for many organizations. Deciding what to host where, while managing costs and supporting network agility, is now part and parcel of the deployment of applications and services, both on- and off-premises.

More than 90% of organizations around the world now place the migration of network functions to the cloud and cloud-first network solutions among their top three expected changes to network characteristics, according to our 2022–23 Global Network Report.

3. Evolving security

New network architectures also create new and more complex security needs, including the shift from perimeter-based security to identity-based security.

A distributed workforce presents a bigger target for cybercriminals. Organizations are moving to more centralized, cloud-based security solutions, such as secure access service edge (SASE), and a managed endpoint security model.

4. The move from software-defined to intent-based networks

Networking functions are shifting away from software-defined networking towards an intent-based approach. Through centralized orchestration and high levels of extensibility, intent-based networking allows for a more business-outcome-based network, where smart network infrastructure uses business-aligned policies and rules to control the network’s behavior and performance – for example, increasing video capacity and priority during a CEO’s video address to all employees.

You need the right skills – whether in-house or sourced from a managed service provider – to support new, programmable and orchestrated networks that use intent-based networking platforms.

5. AIOps-driven operations

There is increasing complexity in managing modern, highly distributed and increasingly more intelligent networks. Using AI in network operations (AIOps) gives you the essential and fast-developing tools to process and make sense of the increasingly vast amounts of data generated by modern networks.

These tools allow you to maintain and optimize your systems in line with business changes. As these tools evolve and become more mainstream, they can even help you mitigate skill shortages.

6. Sustainability

As your organization adopts sustainability goals and you monitor your carbon footprint, it becomes crucial to integrate environmentally friendly initiatives with your information technology strategy. This extends to building management (including smart buildings) and educating your employees on the benefits of your sustainability efforts.

Data will drive organizational sustainability objectives. Access to the data needed to make decisions – and then tracking the effectiveness of those decisions in real time – will be key to organizations’ success in pursuing their sustainability objectives.

What comes next?

Other innovative technologies such as augmented and virtual reality within the metaverse, photonic computing, quantum networking and 6G may not be mainstream – yet. But shifting to a modern, cloud-based, software-defined and data-driven network infrastructure has never been more important, according to Amit Dhingra, Executive Vice President of Enterprise Network Services at NTT.

“Networks form the backbone of our digital world,” he says. “The explosion in demand for connectivity that arose during the pandemic gave organizations a greater appreciation of this unsung superhero of modern business – and cemented the network's role as a vital contributor to enabling computing applications and achieving business goals.”

Make sure you’re prepared by assessing the readiness of your organization’s network for the disruptions that lie ahead.

Download our ebook, The Future of Networking in 2025 and Beyond.

Matt Allen is Vice President, Service Offer Management – Networking at NTT