Jon Moger, senior marketing director at Aruba, looks at the top network management challenges that IT professionals will face in 2017.
It is a challenging time to be working in IT. Across businesses of all sizes the job is coming under incredible scrutiny. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the management of the IT infrastructure has a direct impact on company results, and the tools that people want from their network are changing on an almost daily basis as technologies evolve.
Earlier this year, a study from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) found that companies rated as ‘pioneers’ of mobile technology by their employees saw a rise in productivity (16%), creativity (18%), satisfaction (23%) and loyalty (21%). That draws a pretty distinct line between mobile technology and improved business performance. But what are the technologies that IT should be prioritising to get the best from their workforce.
As we move in to 2017, these are the main areas that will likely come into focus.

Automating, not just securing IoT
It’s been hard to escape the term Internet of Things for a number of years now, but in 2016 alone, analysts estimate that some 5.5 million new “things” were connected to networks every day. Gartner projects that there will be 21 billion connected devices by 2020. Like it or not, the time is now for IT professionals to be considering how to deal with the number of new devices joining their networks without choking bandwidth or running exorbitant costs.
So far the conversation has centered on how we secure these various new connections. For attackers, mobile devices – which have been at the forefront of the IoT revolution – offer the easiest route for hacking sensitive enterprise data.
With these devices tending to be isolated, a network compromise or malware infection brings a massive challenge for IT staff in first identifying the source of the breach, and then plugging it. Last year, it took an average five months for a breach to be discovered.
The burden on people to identify each individual problem is only removed when the security infrastructure is working together to identify and analyse issues, and taking that one step further to automatically enforce policies for devices.

Prediction #1: Moving into the next 12 months, there will be a trend in IT professionals switching to security process automation to combat the threats that IoT brings.
Whilst automated security solutions are vital in protecting networks when certain devices have already been compromised, there is a need for them to work hand-in-hand with tools that predict when an attack is likely to occur.
2016 has been rife with stories of attacks on connected devices, including the botnet attack of 25 000 CCTV cameras and digital video recorders globally, that in one such case crippled the website of a jewellery retailer.
If IT had been able to identify the spike in traffic on the CCTV camera ports – leveraging a capability called NMAP Port Scanning – perhaps the problem would have been mitigated before it ever got so far.
To move beyond basic network management to this more predictive model, visibility is paramount.

Prediction #2: IT professionals will start to demand more granular information into the devices on the network to identify what devices or services that were on the ports are being targeted, leading to a review of protocols and software tools required to build IoT-ready networks.
Over the past few years a number of use cases have emerged for location, but a trend that we have been starting to see is businesses moving beyond simple location apps to the use of analytics, so they can utilise location-based information to improve customer loyalty, determine how best to invest their time and resources, and increase revenues.
Through location services, enterprises are gaining the ability to track assets and record common trends in the environment. These are not limited to analysing how people travel through a building and understanding where people congregate most, and this insight could inspire the best layout of that building, or where wireless upgrades need to take place.
Because many businesses are demanding the integration of device-based and infrastructure based location services, they are gathering a vast amount of actionable data which is an incredibly powerful tool for improving efficiency across the organisation. This helps them get a leap on their competitors – which in turn encourages other businesses to follow suit.

Prediction #3: In the coming year, we’ll see enterprises increasingly using analytics to determine how best to use the information they’re gathering through location services.
Each year IT professionals are faced with challenges from brand new mobile technology innovations coming to market, and with the constant rise of IoT devices as discussed earlier, these are only set to increase.
The demands from users for flexible working options are continuously evolving and changing, and IT is under more pressure than ever before to keep up and accommodate these trends to ensure users are happiest and at their most productive. In order to provide this, IT professionals require customised functionality on their networks.

Prediction #4: 2017 promises to be the year of collaboration. A major trend will be a move towards integrating third-party applications into networks and, as a result, the emergence of more open, software-based network platforms.