• What 2019 will bring for network service providers

        • Most people don’t give a second thought to how networks are kept in operation and evolve them to meet new demands, and according to experts, that’s exactly how it should be. But for those at the coalface, the coming year is looking very exciting for the industry. Here, Anthony Webb, Vice-President EMEA, A10 Networksdiscusses the key topics he predicts to see ruling the agenda for 2019.

          5G reality strikes

          No surprise here that high consumer expectations and voracious demand for new services will drive the rollout of 5G throughout 2019. This is the shape of the future and we’ll see all stakeholders in the industry sharing roadmaps and innovations that will whet our appetites for things to come. 

          As might be expected, core infrastructure security for 5G is a whole new and much bigger ballgame to 4G. The approach will need to be more advanced, automated and scalable to guarantee uptime and meet new requirements for control plane and user plane security. Alongside innovations in firewall and DNS protection, we’ll see a new generation of AI and machine learning-based security solutions brought into play to mitigate the increasing DDoS risk created by the proliferation of IoT devices and the resulting expanded attack surface.

          Low latency, low TCO and high reliability will all be crucial factors for 5G success. Competition in this market will be fierce, so there’ll be focused investment in technology that delivers robust, secure and cost-effective networks. 

          Historical investment protection

          With all the buzz around 5G we shouldn’t forget that it won’t happen overnight. Network evolution takes time and service providers still have a considerable investment in legacy infrastructure that needs to be maintained, and boosted, to cope with growing demand through the transition period. We’ve been seeing this over several years, as demand has skyrocketed and new entrants have started running advanced services over existing networks. Full network upgrades are cost-prohibitive, so service providers are having to invest in products that can make what they’ve already got work more effectively.

          I expect to see a measured migration and network evolution. Rip and replace is simply too costly an option and service providers need to think carefully about how best to beachhead into profitable 5G services while maintaining existing infrastructure.

          Security gets smarter and more pragmatic

          Cybersecurity will continue to be a defining challenge as we move into 2019. There’s a noticeable shift, though, as defence techniques and philosophies mature. The threat of DDoS attacks is still ever-present, and attacks are now so easy and cheap to launch that they will undoubtedly continue to intensify. Protecting against DDoS is now simply a cost of doing business, so organisations want to ensure that they’re getting the best protection for their investment. This means looking for protection that is automated, intelligent and scalable, but which also achieves this at a low TCO. 

          A shift in the business model for network investment

          As service providers maintain existing networks and build out new capabilities, I believe we’ll see a reversing of the trend for deferring capital expenditure in preference for operational expenditure that has dominated in recent years. 

          Service providers are now thinking further ahead, aiming to futureproof their networks by spending a bit more upfront in a bid to reduce that long tail of operational expenditure further down the line. Solution providers who can offer licensing and contract flexibility should reap the benefits of this change in approach.

          The coming year promises to be incredibly exciting for all of us involved in the network industry. Overall, I predict that it will be a balancing act between looking forward to 5G and all the opportunities it offers, while handling the challenges of supporting existing networks and developing security strategies to defend against increasing threats. One thing’s for sure, it won’t be boring.

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