These are the technologies that are shaping up to be a concrete part of Network Architecture 2020. Beneficial, realistic and timely, they look to be part of the future of network architecture.

Though not a complete list, let's take a look at some key technologies.

Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV)

In the mid-2000s, virtualisation began to fundamentally change the data centre for the better. Inflexible, static infrastructure built for one job became flexible and dynamic, able to handle new and changing workloads in a way that wasn't envisioned before.

Today, many networks are looking a lot like those old data centres. Single-use boxes, big, expensive bundles of iron made to do one job are under threat of replacement from general-purpose hardware running their once-specialist functions in software.

Security appliances, VPN gateways and even routers to name a few can be replaced with their software equivalents, albeit with varying degrees of success today, bringing the potential for fluid changes to the network as well as its applications and services without needing wholesale hardware replacement.

For its benefits of cost, service agility and flexibility, NFV is set to play a major role in Network Architecture 2020.

Millimeter-wave Wireless Networks

Wireless spectrum - the radio waves that wireless networks need to operate - is heavily congested. Whether licensed, such as the likes of AT&T's LTE network, or unlicensed like your home WiFi, the available spectrum is struggling to meet the traffic demands of today, let alone 2020.

Here's the problem: you can't create new spectrum. Wireless is a shared medium, and some interference is inevitable. So what can you do? How about using several almost unused gigahertz of spectrum - several times more than all of our existing wireless networks have to play with today?

From 28 to 60 GHz, millimetre-wave wireless networks are well positioned for the mobile-first world of 2020. Gigabit speeds, wirelessly over short distances (typically under a kilometre) can make it possible for networks to handle the huge increases in network data traffic expected by 2020.

Now becoming viable for real-world deployment thanks to standards development and chipset manufacturers such as Qualcomm, as well as device manufacturers, millimetre-wave wireless networks are a safe bet for Network Architecture 2020.

Note that millimetre-wave technically refers to the range of frequencies from 30 to 300 GHz. However, I shoehorn 28 GHz into this range thanks to its similarities in terms of use cases and capabilities.

What else will be a winning technology?

Many more are certain to join this list as Network Architecture 2020 research continues. A good place to see what could be next are the contenders.

What are the contenders?

What's next?

We've seen some winners.

Now, how about some losers?