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Networking 2012: Vendors predict what's ahead for the industry

Joe Fernandez, News Editor

As the new year approaches, a series of new challenges will arrive to confront the networking industry. SearchNetworkingUK asked vendors for their networking 2012 predictions, and here they address the transition from wireline to wireless networks, an increasingly mobile workforce, cloud computing and consumerisation and the effects that all of these changes will have on existing networks.

Trevor Dearing, head of enterprise marketing EMEA, Juniper Networks

Over the past few weeks, it has certainly been interesting to see the number of 2012 predictions emerge that focus on how cloud computing will be the ultimate game changer next year, why companies will be unlocking the value of their unstructured data and how the consumerisation of IT will become a reality. It’s almost predictable.

Upgrading legacy networks can’t be ignored. Otherwise, organisations in the next few years are at serious risk of the network becoming a bottleneck, halting innovation and stalling deployments.

I’m usually all for this season of goodwill, but I can’t sit back as everyone ignores the key ingredient that makes all these innovations work --- the network.  For CIOs, a challenge for 2012 will be the unknowns caused by the adoption of new technologies and business processes, and how to plan for them. We know that the volume of information that flows through organisations is greater, as are the points of access, and the speed at which it is consumed is faster. What is unknown is where the weak point will be and how it will manifest itself.

For CIOs who want to have a robust IT infrastructure that can cope with changing user demands and new technologies, upgrading legacy networks can’t be ignored. Otherwise, organisations in the next few years are at serious risk of the network becoming a bottleneck, halting innovation and stalling deployments. The network should instead be viewed as a vital enabler for technology innovation rather than just a side consideration.

Marcus Jewell, head of UK and Ireland, Brocade

2011 has been an interesting period, and business-wise it has changed dramatically since the beginning of the year. In the early part of the 2011 there was a great deal of confidence in the market, with organisations looking to increase IT investments after what had been a difficult few years.  More recently, the macroeconomic environment has worsened again, and we now face new headwinds that were not around six months ago.

Customers need to do more with less, and vendors need to continually illustrate how they favourably impact a user’s business.

I believe this presents us, Brocade, and the general IT vendor community, with opportunities and challenges in equal measure. Customers need to do more with less, and vendors need to continually illustrate how they favourably impact a user’s business. They also need to demonstrate how they are ahead of the innovation curve in meeting future demands -- vendors that fail to do these things will struggle in 2012.

Users who buy into vendor marketing campaigns and buy solutions blindly will also fail. Instead, they should intelligently assess offerings and deploy what is best for their business. So, what does 2012 have in store for the market?  I see a few key trends driving the industry in the coming 12 months:

  1. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) changes IT procurement: The company PC is becoming a thing of the past, as businesses increasingly allow, and even encourage, employees to bring their domestic, consumer devices into the workplace and access corporate application.
  2. Campus LAN gets smart: With BYOD, the growth of smartphone/tablet usage among consumers and the unified communications market set to triple by 2015, the campus LAN will have to step up to the plate to meet demand -- 2012 will be the year the campus gets smart.
  3. Rise of ‘Cloud Service Revenue’:  2011 saw organisations slowly moving toward the cloud, and this pragmatic adoption will continue in 2012 but will also see the rise of a new form of revenue generation as enterprises from outside the technology sector move toward cloud service provision.
  4. Greater commoditisation:  The maturity of server virtualisation means that hardware is less important; as real estate/energy costs spiral and companies look to reduce capital outlay (CapEx), virtualisation strategies will permeate all companies, and the CXO will become more vocal in whether or not the organization has a plan in place.
  5. Data consumption continues to skyrocket:  Businesses will need to look at innovative solutions to increase network stability and performance while driving down costs to remain competitive.  Those who ignore this trend will face major problems.
  6. And finally… the year of the fabric: Holistic data centre fabrics -- from the storage environment through to the Ethernet network -- are going to be the big trend in 2012.  All my previous predictions will rely on this.

John Ansell, UK country manager, HP Networking

Historically, the network was static, and it expected users and applications to be static. In today’s IT world, the network needs to be more agile so applications can be rolled out quickly and more easily adapt to business changes.

Organisations will need to simplify their networking infrastructure to keep pace with the dynamic needs of business applications:

  • There are considerable changes stressing the network: Enterprises are moving to cloud; the [rise of] consumerisation of IT; increasingly mobile users demanding rapid services; and users expecting their business network to behave like the Internet. Historically, the network was static, and it expected users and applications to be static. In today’s IT world, the network needs to be more agile so applications can be rolled out quickly and more easily adapt to business changes.
  • Fabrics that simplify data centre infrastructure with converged network, compute and storage resources across both virtual and physical environments to accommodate hybrid cloud computing models are the future. These fabrics must be open, scalable, sure, agile and rely on a common OS for configuration and management consistency.

Jim Morin, product line director, managed services & enterprise at Ciena

With a more flexible and intelligent network to the cloud, enterprises will finally be able to realise the promise of a data centre without walls --  or in other words, a completely virtual data centre.

If 2011 was the year that enterprises started truly adopting the cloud, then 2012 will be the year they start realising the need for more intelligent networking connectivity to cloud-based resources and work to implement such a model.

Several factors are driving requirements for more robust enterprise-to-cloud networks, including the need to accommodate the rapidly increasing data transfer workloads between enterprise data centres and cloud data centres. With a more flexible and intelligent network to the cloud, enterprises will finally be able to realise the promise of a data centre without walls --  or in other words, a completely virtual data centre.

This industry model will consist of an active/active architecture that replaces passive backup architectures to enable greater mobility, collaboration and availability, as well as the operation of both private and cloud infrastructures and services independent of physical location. Specifically, this new technical architecture will feature a server, storage and intelligent networking infrastructure.

Ian Foddering, Cisco UK & Ireland CTO

Networkers will have to become more adept at working flexibly and maintaining legacy systems whilst simultaneously protecting the infrastructure from external threats that could come at a heavy cost at any time. With proper planning and long-term technology investment through traditional capex models or through alternative investment initiatives, it is possible to balance these seemingly contradictory goals. 

The main challenge the industry will face is balancing user empowerment needs with the limitations they must work to within their infrastructure. The apparent lack of funding could hit hard, and proof that the network is delivering a suitable return on investment will become imperative before any future decisions can be made on boosting the capabilities or speeds, etc.

Networkers will have to become more adept at working flexibly and maintaining legacy systems whilst simultaneously protecting the infrastructure from external threats that could come at a heavy cost at any time. With proper planning and long-term technology investment through traditional capex models or through alternative investment initiatives, it is possible to balance these seemingly contradictory goals. There is a strong business case to be made for doing so, in that IT can become a strategic advantage for companies that align their spending with commercial productivity needs.

Our own work as the Official Olympic Network Infrastructure Provider working with  BT will be a big technological challenge for us, where all eyes will be on us. Security, reliability and performance of the network infrastructure will be critical, with stability taking precedence over creativity.

George Humphrey, director and line of business owner, Avaya

IT departments will be compelled by business units and enterprise users to adopt more user-centric applications and devices, and as IT departments better understand industry best practices around infrastructure management, they will become more discriminating about the services they purchase, their expectations for transparency into those services and how they hold service providers accountable.

In many companies, voice and data support teams will be converged with the advent of Internet Protocol (IP) telephony; with the deployment of unified communications applications, more companies will blend their applications teams as well. IT departments will be compelled by business units and enterprise users to adopt more user-centric applications and devices, and as IT departments better understand industry best practices around infrastructure management, they will become more discriminating about the services they purchase, their expectations for transparency into those services and how they hold service providers accountable.

Suke Jawanda, chief marketing officer, Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG)

The new network challenges will be outweighed by the significance of the advanced capabilities provided by version 4.0 in 2012.

As more devices use Bluetooth technology, both the ecosystem and each device in it increase in value and usefulness, with ever increasing numbers of Bluetooth devices able to wirelessly connect. With 5 million new Bluetooth products shipping daily powered by Bluetooth technology, they will be available to interoperate and connect with the vast Bluetooth ecosystem of billions of devices worldwide.

I envisage more enterprises making use of this new technology and finding new and more effective ways of seamlessly sharing data over secure networks, which will greatly benefit users and administrators alike. The new challenges will be outweighed by the significance of the advanced capabilities provided by this version.

Lee Ealey-Newman, business development director, Cryptocard

Interest in the cloud is set to soar in the next year, and finding ways to make this even more effective will be a huge area of priority for anyone involved in networking.

We see a big opportunity in the cloud computing sphere, particularly buoyed by the huge amount of applications coming out around SAML and the consequential intrigue this is creating. Clearly, some of the security concerns here still need to be addressed before it can ever become truly mainstream, but interest in the cloud is set to soar in the next year, and finding ways to make this even more effective will be a huge area of priority for anyone involved in networking.

Carolyn Carter, portable network tools product manager, Fluke Networks

 Being able to solve network and application problems faster and improve overall IT efficiency will be pivotal in 2012.

Network analysis and wireless management is going to become important to executives as they become more pressured to present information into their networks as a form factor that they can take from the data centre to the production floor to the office desktop. Being able to solve network and application problems faster and improve overall IT efficiency will be pivotal in 2012.

Indeed, the ability to solve both network and application problems is crucial for today’s network engineers. That need, combined with critical staff levels in many organisations, means tools that integrate multiple functions and automate the collection of performance data will be key to greater efficiency and less downtime.


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