A new year can only mean one thing: it’s time to break out the lingo bingo cards and take a look at networking trends in the year to come!

Tech is constantly changing, and staying up-to-date is essential to keep your skills relevant. For IT pros in the MSP space, we’ve already covered trends in managed services and some of the best MSP conferences that can help keep you ahead of the curve.

Here, we’ll explore five networking trends for IT admins to know in 2023.

1. AI is getting scary good

I know, I know, another trend list calling out AI. But, if you’ve been keeping up with the space, it really seems like we’re at a critical point. The power of AI is becoming much more democratized, and we should expect the momentum it gained in late 2022 to continue through 2023.

In mid-2022, for example, OpenAI’s DALL·E 2, which can generate images from text prompts, got people experimenting with AI to create all sorts of cool art and ramped up the hype.

Editor’s note: it’s not all perfect, mind you. A lot of critics point to the system heavily borrowing, or straight up stealing, from existing art as its basis for creation. Plagiarism, or modern-day Warhol?

AI-generated artwork that bears a passing resemblance to someone we know. Source: DALL·E 2.

Then, OpenAI followed up with the research release of ChatGPT, and things got even more interesting. While there has been plenty of text-generation AI programs in the past, ChatGPT feels significantly more powerful. It’s far from perfect, and at times can come off sounding juvenile, but the results feel game-changing even in its current state.

Check out this conversation we had with ChatGPT about SNMP v3 as an example.

A conversation with ChatGPT about SNMP v3 configuration. Source: ChatGPT

Why should you care?

You can see where these sorts of tools could be both powerful and dangerous. If you’re currently copy/pasting and editing answers from Stack Exchange, a tool like ChatGPT could help streamline the process. Similarly, the implications for chat-based support and helpdesk tasks are huge.

But a newly minted IT admin, or one that doesn’t have any context, might miss an obvious issue from an AI (say, specifying an insecure configuration that still works), creating more problems than they solve.

Of course, OpenAI isn’t the only one moving the AI space forward. There are plenty of tools and platforms ramping up their use of AI for networking, cybersecurity, and programming.

The takeaway for IT admins in 2023? Expect “knowing how to work with AI” to become a skill comparable to “knowing how to Google”. You won’t have to become an AI engineer, but knowing how to work with AI systems can be a big productivity hack.

2. Intent-Based Networking (IBN)

Move over SD-WAN and SASE, IBN is shaping up to be the next big networking buzzword. It’s also a great example of the shift towards end-user experience as the focal point of modern networks.

Intent-based networking combines software-defined networking (SDN) and machine learning (ML) to modify and optimize network traffic flows based on business outcomes. Instead of defining a device-specific policy, administrators create policies that define desired outcomes. The IBN technology then automatically configures the network to deliver those outcomes. IBN does this by continuously analyzing the state of the network against those policies and modifying configurations as needed. It also aims to offer detailed reporting and analytics for network visibility.

Why should you care?

Fundamentally, the promise of IBN is similar to the promise of other network automation technologies:

  • Less manual work and human error
  • Faster mean time to resolution (MTTR)
  • Better performance and uptime
  • Improved business outcomes and return on investment (ROI)

As a result, IT admins can expect to hear more about IBN throughout 2023.

If you’re a network pro who went through the hype cycles for SD-WAN and SASE, you may have groaned when you saw this acronym on the list. After all, new network jargon that isn’t clearly defined can create confusion and ambiguity when non-technical business leaders and technical people meet. Fortunately, IBN’s RFC—RFC 9315 Intent-Based Networking – Concepts and Definitions— was published in October 2022. Consider giving it a once over so you can be the voice of reason as IBN hype rises.

3. Work from home the office is coming

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a huge spike in remote work that drastically changed the face of the modern network. Remote work isn’t going away, but there are indicators of a bit of a digital trend reversal in some industries. Companies are ramping up efforts to get employees back in the office, and the 2nd half of 2022 saw workers returning to the office at a pandemic-high rate.

Why should you care?

This puts IT in a bind. It’s one thing to support a remote, hybrid, or on-prem workforce. It’s another to plan and optimize networks in an environment where it’s unclear what the long-term normal will be. Invest too much in remote work, and workers won’t be productive enough in the office. Overinvest in on-prem IT and it’s wasted.

The key takeaway for IT admins is not to over-extrapolate information from the past two years as you plan for 2023 and beyond. 2020-2022 has been an exceptional set of circumstances, and using them as a baseline for budgets and staffing in the years to come may not be reasonable. Align with business stakeholders and align your plans with long-term business strategies for remote and in-office work.

4. Streaming telemetry use will increase (but SNMP still won’t die!)

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: SNMP isn’t dead. It’s also not the only telemetry source you should be familiar with in 2023. There’s a big push in the industry to support more modern streaming telemetry sources.

Why should you care?

Big players in the industry, including Cisco, are leaning into streaming telemetry, and large networks (like Google) have been using it for years. If you’re not sure where to begin learning about newer network monitoring and management protocols, check out our article on SNMP alternatives.

If you’re a pro with protocols like SNMP and Syslog, but you’re not familiar with terms like:

  • RESTconf
  • gRPC
  • YANG
  • pub/sub

It might be a good idea to brush up on streaming telemetry in 2023.

5. Sustainable tech adoption will grow

Sustainable technology is an important topic in the world of networking and beyond. There’s a clear trend across multiple industries to shift to tech that reduces carbon footprints, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and e-waste.

Why should you care?

As both corporate initiatives and regulation call for (or demand) sustainable tech, IT admins can expect to see that impact on day-to-day work. One of the more interesting recent developments in the tech sustainability world was the addition of a sustainability pillar to the AWS Well-Architected Framework. Their influence helps shift sustainability from a “nice to have” to a core non-functional requirement (NFR) that tech pros give real consideration to as they build their cloud networks.

Learn, adapt, repeat

As Jeff Atwood’s blog Sharpening the Saw succinctly explained, it’s tough to balance learning and doing in tech. There is always something new to learn, but a big part of learning is doing. After all, no blog post, whitepaper, or ebook is a replacement for real-world experience.

The key is balancing your learning (sharpening the saw) with your doing (using the saw) and repeating the process in a positive feedback loop. Hopefully, these five networking trends for 2023 gave you something to help sharpen your saw.

If you’re interested in learning more about the state of modern networks, check out our vendor diversity report or leave a comment with a topic you’d like to see us cover in the Frankly IT blog!

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Ryan LaFlamme

About Ryan LaFlamme

Ryan LaFlamme is Auvik's former Senior Content Manager. Ryan has worked as an advertising and marketing professional for over 12 years, working with leading global brands in Canada and internationally. Will probably pet your dog.

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