The communication networks of today can greatly benefit from autonomous operation and adaptation, not only due to the implicit cost savings, but also because autonomy will enable functionalities that are infeasible today. Across industry, academia and standardisation bodies there has been an increased interest in achieving the autonomous goal, but a path on how to attain this goal is still unclear.
In this paper we present our vision for the future of autonomous networking. We introduce the concepts and technological means to achieve autonomy and propose an architecture which emerges directly through the application of these concepts, highlighting opportunities and challenges for standardisation. We argue that only a holistic architecture based on hierarchies of hybrid learning, functional composition, and online experimental evaluation is expressive and capable enough to realise true autonomy within communication networks.