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How new technologies, challenges and solutions will reshape enterprises in 2024

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By Sanjiv Verma, Vice President, Asia Pacific, RUCKUS Networks at CommScope

In today’s rapidly evolving landscape, next generation technologies are continuously pushing the boundaries for enterprises. Ones who are adapting to the changing terrain of business are finding solutions for consumers and industries across the board including connectivity. And 2024 may well prove to be the year that will separate the top performers from the rest as many important enterprise technology developments take the field.

There are three technologies that will impact most enterprises in some way in 2024—and may already be in the mix for some. Each comes with its own risk, benefits and solutions:
 Wi-Fi 7 is finally here, and with it, the massive boost in capacity afforded by the 6 GHz bands it uses. While Wi-Fi 6E has opened the door on this spectrum, Wi-Fi 7 flings it wide with several enhancements, most significantly its improvements to capacity, latency and reliability that make it an even more valuable part of the enterprise network strategy.

Wi-Fi 7 adds multi-link operation (MLO) that enables access points (APs) to simultaneously drive multiple bands and channels at the same time, so the 2.4, 5 and 6 GHz streams are all available concurrently, from the same AP, which sends capacity skyrocketing and drives latency way down. Even more, MLO delivers a more reliable connection between an endpoint and the Wi-Fi AP. Thus, 2024 is going to be the year when enterprises will take a deeper look at their use cases and realize that what was once thought untenable via Wi-Fi has finally become possible.

Moreover, the 6.0 GHz band is also shared by unlicensed cellular network applications. This opens the door to some exciting applications in converged networking, as you’ll see next.

 Multi-access converged networks in the enterprise can flatten multiple wireless technologies—not only Wi-Fi and private cellular networks, as mentioned above, but also low- power IoT networks such as Zigbee™ and Bluetooth LE as well. For enterprises looking for the most agile connectivity, 2024 will bring important advances in how multiple networks and protocols can be driven in parallel, optimising the connectivity mix with purpose-built networks to suit specific enterprise needs.

 IT/OT convergence and IoT is witnessing a strong comeback within the enterprise in 2024, for a few reasons. Economic conditions are forcing enterprises to seek more efficient ways to operate than ever before. While new advancements in IoT device connectivity—, are making waves in smart homes, it is also setting sight on the enterprise market in 2024. These advancements are making zero-touch IoT device connectivity and interoperability a reality and removing an enormous obstacle to broader IoT adoption. Connected devices can unlock critical efficiencies for enterprises and enable them to reallocate resources from IT and OT to more profitable, growth-oriented priorities.

These technologies will set the stage for evolution for the next decade or two, all hitting the mainstream at the same time. However, these developments are surfacing with growing pains, and they too fall into three main challenges that span these technologies.

 Network complexity is a predictable challenge that comes with these opportunities. With the addition of new network layers and additional integrations between them, the structure of the network becomes necessarily more complicated and unwieldy. As use cases for 4G/5G private networks grow alongside Wi-Fi, the top priority will be to manage the complexities that emerge from the two technologies as they share space.

 Both CapEx and OpEx are significant factors for enterprises seeking to leverage these technologies. Wi-Fi 7 requires LAN infrastructure upgrades, and fully leveraging IT/OT convergence and IoT opportunities requires specific equipment and expertise. Under current economic conditions, this kind of investment in equipment and staffing is not an option for all enterprises.

 Hard-to-find subject matter experts (SMEs) can be a limiting factor, particularly where it concerns 6 GHz and Wi-Fi 7, private cellular and IoT deployments. As a new-to-market technology, Wi-Fi 7 does not yet have an established third-party ecosystem of support and deep expertise. Wi-Fi 7 is the central pillar support of all these 2024 trends, so this challenge is perhaps the most significant of all.

Each of these interrelated challenges is a steep hill to climb, but not an unscalable one. Enterprises today have innovative solutions close at hand, leveraging the benefits of new network technologies in the years ahead and minimize the potential downsides. Here are three key resources available to enterprises:

 Increasingly affordable AI management of complexity is central to the efficient optimization, monitoring and management of complicated converged networks. AI has been in the limelight lately, but an under-reported aspect of the rush into AI is the dramatic decline in the training costs of purpose-built AI models that’s happening concurrently with its meteoric rise in computational power and efficiency.

 IoT efficiencies can support IT/OT convergence and reduce costs. The latest Thread protocols
specifications expand the number of supported device types in smart home settings. This year, we can look forward to Thread making greater inroads into enterprise and industrial environments. These protocols sweep away the challenges of fragmented and uneven security measures in IoT devices, opening the floodgates for any number of connected devices, sensors, security and productivity applications. These range from networked thermostats and lighting that can reduce OpEx through more efficient management, to connected door locks and security cameras that improve plant security and increase personal safety for employees. Moreover, with the use of affordable AI management, IoT deployments can even improve an enterprise’s sustainability profile due to its ability to reduce energy use. It can also provide other efficiencies throughout the enterprise, from transportation to warehousing to manufacturing.

 Network as a service (NaaS) can lift the CapEx burden for enterprises building smarter, more converged networks. NaaS is a cloud-based service model that delivers turnkey network functionality on a subscription basis. Rather than invest in the new infrastructure that may be required to deploy Wi-Fi 7 and all the converged networks services that run with it, the enterprise can delegate the cost to a third-party NaaS vendor and amortize the cost over time as a matter of OpEx rather than CapEx. NaaS can ensure that the enterprise network is—and remains—on the cutting edge of technology, without taking on the obligation to design, install, optimize, monitor or manage that network. NaaS models enable agile scalability and responsive allocation of bandwidth across the network.

Lastly, for those enterprises limited by IT resources and time more so than the money required to design, build, manage, and support converged networks, there are vendors who offer a complete set of “managed services” to choose from to meet their network needs. One thing all three of these solutions have in common is that they are focused on relieving the enterprise of the complexity associated with the most advanced converged networks.

The key developments taking place in 2024 will resonate far beyond this coming year. The arrival of so
many exciting technologies to the mainstream could well set the tempo for decades to come. For those enterprises willing to embrace them—with the smartest combination of AI, IoT and NaaS support—2024
will indeed be the start of something very, very big.

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