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Recapping 2017's biggest trends in networking technology

In 2017 trends in networking technology, network management software got more intelligent, switches more versatile and vendor consolidation accelerated.

Editor's note: Cisco accelerated its shift to software, vendors launched new tools for managing data centers, and...

analytics, fueled by machine learning, stole the spotlight. Here, a recap of some of the most significant 2017 trends in networking technology.

Data center infrastructure trends in networking

In February, Cisco joined Microsoft to offer Azure Stack services in its UCS server. Throughout the early months of the year, Cisco revenues continued to fall, dropping for a fifth consecutive quarter because of declining sales of routers and switches.

Cisco attracted a lot of attention for its Digital Network Architecture (DNA) software initiative, which included a new line of Catalyst campus switches engineered to pave the way for a more intuitive way to program the network. DNA eliminates the need to program devices manually through the command-line interface; instead engineers use a policy-based approach to determine network behavior. Later that summer, Cisco said it would acquire SD-WAN vendor Viptela for $610 million in a bid to consolidate its WAN offerings.

In the fall, Cisco launched Intersight, a software-as-a-service initiative slated to become a management option for the vendor's Unified Computing System and HyperFlex, a hyper-converged infrastructure platform. It also bolstered its Application Centric Infrastructure SDN software by enabling it to run across multiple data centers.

Other data center news included Juniper's work on a switch fabric intended for multiple data centers, with a single set of management tools and higher spending on public cloud services. Juniper also made a series of announcements in December that included the release of bot software aimed at automating certain network functions.

Additionally, Dell EMC made its NOS standard on new open networking switches and Arista expanded its spine-leaf architecture for hyperscale data centers. Dell followed up its NOS announcement by releasing a line of high-speed switches for data centers and carriers in the fall.

Vendor consolidation gained traction, with Extreme Networks purchasing the data center business of Brocade, as well as the networking assets of Avaya.

Wireless LAN technology trends

The past 12 months were relatively quiet in WLAN trends in networking, as enterprises worked to deploy systems based on the 802.11ac Wave 2 specification.

One important technological development took place, however, as vendors began to release switches and other components capable of supporting the 2.5 and 5 GbE standard, which was ratified by the IEEE in late 2016. Toward that end, Dell EMC, among others, released multigigabit campus switches for both wired and WLAN deployments.

In February, Arris International said it would purchase WLAN vendor Ruckus Wireless Inc. for $800 million. Arris said Ruckus would continue to operate as an independent unit as it targets its technology to service providers and the hospitality market.

That acquisition was followed by a similar move by Riverbed Technology, which bought wireless LAN vendor Xirrus to complement its SD-WAN portfolio.

In June, Aruba released a core switch, aimed at large campus networks and internet of things applications. The 8400X switch also supports Aruba's WLAN portfolio of products and software.

Extreme Networks announced plans in July to embed its recently acquired Avaya fabric technology in switches and management software to centralize control of large campus wired and wireless networks. And Aerohive, one of the last remaining independent Wi-Fi vendors, said it would add SD-WAN features to its cloud-based wireless controller in a bid to offer a more comprehensive service package to its customers. It also released a low-cost version of its Connect management platform for smaller deployments.

Network performance management and monitoring

In February, Cisco added policy-enforcement capabilities to its Tetration Analytics engine. The upgrade included a cheaper version for midsize companies. Following on the Tetration update, the vendor also launched cloud management for hyper-converged infrastructure in early March, providing enterprises with more choices in how they oversee the vendor's  HyperFlex product.

VeloCloud beefed up its SD-WAN software with policy options to make it more responsive to network performance problems. The new capabilities let enterprises dedicate segments of the network to specific traffic. In the event of glitches, the software reroutes traffic to alternative routes.

Intent-based networking (IBN) -- policy-based software that tells the network what you want instead of telling it what to do -- was one of the biggest trends in networking technology. Cisco said IBN would reshape much of its network management efforts, while startup Apstra Inc. upgraded its software that lets companies configure and troubleshoot network devices from multiple vendors.

The addition of analytics -- fueled by machine learning -- within network management and monitoring applications also gained steam. ExtraHop Networks added machine learning as a service to its Discover packet capture appliances.

In November, Nyansa upgraded its Voyance remediation engine to flag potential sources of network trouble, improve analytics and recommend fixes.

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