Industry Voices—Doyle: Four leading networking trends that are not 5G

The networking industry has been overwhelmed by news (and hype) around 5G. However, plenty of other developments are worth our attention, including software-based routing, containerization of NFV, distributed multi-cloud and enabling edge computing. Here's a look at four of the non-5G trends and the vendors that are behind them.

The rise of software-based routing

Routers have traditionally been designed as integrated hardware/software boxes and sold by Cisco (or Juniper.)  Advances in silicon—both Intel x86 and Broadcom—have enabled software-driven routers from a number of innovative suppliers. These software routers typically are positioned in the low to mid-tier of performance and can cost a fraction of the price of a traditional Cisco router. 

Software routers are becoming more popular in a number of applications, including cell site routing (lots of new 5G RAN), fiber-to-the-home (BNG), NFV and other network edge applications.

Companies to watch: 128 Networks, Volta, 6Wind, AT&T, Arrcus, netElastic, and Stateless.

NFV and containers

Over the last six or seven years, virtual network functions (VNFs) running on virtual machines (typically OpenStack, some VMware) have been the standard for many network functions, including IMS, mobile core, analytics, video and many other applications. Taking these VNFs and optimizing them for containers is the next step for the NFV architecture. VNF suppliers are starting to make their applications microservices-enabled. And, various suppliers are providing the orchestration tools to run a variety of telecom applications on containerized platforms. New architectures for 5G, including Open RAN, will be a primary driver here.

Companies to watch:  Red Hat, VMware, HPE, Ericsson, and Nokia.

RELATED: Doyle: SD-WAN poses a challenge to providers of managed business services

Enabling edge computing

New video and IoT applications are driving new demands for compute (and storage) at the edge of the network as compared to centralized enterprise or cloud data centers. For example, IoT applications with low latency requirements need data to be processed near where the information is gathered. Vertical industry examples include smart cities, autonomous vehicles, oil/gas monitoring, manufacturing analytics and health care.

A range of suppliers are racing to introduce new edge compute offerings including the leading infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) suppliers, IT vendors and start-ups.

Companies to watch:  AWS, Azure, Google, Vapor IO, Celona, EdgeConneX, HPE, VMware, and leading CSPs.

Distributed multi-cloud

Organizations are rapidly deploying applications across a number of leading IaaS cloud providers, including Amazon’s AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft’s Azure, which are critical to most IT operations. As each IaaS platform offers unique network capabilities, IT leaders are challenged to migrate, secure and manage their data and applications across these opaque cloud resources.  Suppliers are beginning to introduce new software to better enable visibility and control of applications across multiple cloud platforms.

Companies to watch:  Aviatrix, Volterra, Cisco, HPE, and VMware.


Software-based networking advancements continue to impact a wide range of network applications and use cases. While 5G often gets all the attention, network software innovations are impacting several key areas, including:

  • Migration from router appliances to software routing
  • Increased flexibility in deployment of virtual network functions on containers (or VMs)
  • Enabling edge computing with software and infrastructure build outs
  • Helping organizations better manage deployment of applications over multi-cloud infrastructure

Lee Doyle is Principal Analyst at Doyle Research, providing client focused targeted analysis on the Evolution of Intelligent Networks.  He has over 25 years’ experience analyzing the IT, network, and telecom markets.  Lee has written extensively on such topics as SDN, NFV, enterprise adoption of networking technologies, and IT-Telecom convergence. Before founding Doyle Research, Lee was Group VP for Network, Telecom, and Security research at IDC.  Lee holds a B.A. in Economics from Williams College. He can be reached at [email protected] and follow him @leedoyle_dc

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by Fierce staff. They do not represent the opinions of Fierce.