Over the past three years, most small and medium businesses (SMBs) have accelerated their investments in cloud computing and hybrid working tools to keep up with the demands of connected customers and the digital economy. But many of them are now finding that their networking infrastructure has become a barrier to their digitalisation strategies.
One global study found 70% of CEOs believe their network maturity level is negatively affecting their business delivery. Only two in five said that they were very satisfied with their current network capability, highlighting how network architectures at many companies aren’t keeping up with the requirements of hybrid working models and cloud-first operations
It’s not surprising that the enterprise networking market is showing strong growth and resilience. According to IDC, the worldwide Ethernet switch market grew revenues 38.4% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2023 to $11.8 billion and the total worldwide enterprise and service provider router market recorded a 9.4% year-over-year increase.
Preparation for the next phase of digitalisation
The enterprise segment of the worldwide wireless local area network (WLAN) market, meanwhile, increased revenues 43.3% year to $3 billion in the same period. These numbers highlight a rush among businesses to modernise their networks to prepare for the next phase of digitalisation as the technology component shortages of the pandemic finally start to ease.
There are good reasons to be confident that this growth can be sustained for the next few years. Many SMBs with legacy networking architectures will want to revamp networks that were designed before wide adoption of multi-cloud strategies, the advent of edge computing and the era of hybrid, decentralised working models.
What’s more, the technology industry is only just getting started. Wider adoption of generative artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and further down the line, 8K video, and augmented and virtual reality will place networks under even more strain. Forward-thinking SMBs will look at how they can use next-generation standards and technologies like Wi-Fi 7 and private 5G to prepare for this future.
Wi-Fi 7 on the horizon
Given that most enterprises have only recently upgraded to Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi6E, Wi-Fi 7 may seem like a remote prospect. But as Wi-Fi 7 products become available throughout 2024, many companies will find wireless networking that compares favourably to the speed of a cable to be a compelling proposition. Wi-Fi 7 also promises to handle more connected devices at once without slowing down—key for the IoT.
Convergence of cybersecurity and networking are also likely to be high on the agenda, with the migration to zero-trust models and secure access service edge (SASE) networks likely to speed up. SASE and software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) are likely to be priorities for SMBs that are investing in edge computing and cloud-delivered applications.
The shift towards software defined networks (SDNs) is also likely to continue, as SMBs invest in solutions that enable them to adapt quickly to changing business needs. Another hot growth area lies in using AI and machine learning-powered network management solutions to simplify management of complex networks.
Enterprise networking remains a complex field for SMBs to navigate, especially when it intersects with cloud computing, the edge and cybersecurity. As such, resellers that help SMBs to simplify management of networks and adapt to the demands of transformative digital technologies will find strong demand for their services in the months to come.
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