Networking may be the glue holding the datacentre together, but it has often been treated as a somewhat feared technology.
Businesses have dealt with under-performing networks for years, scared of the consequences of trying something new. It has always been better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
But this year, the industry finally got the shake-up it needed with a new technology trend emerging that it could not ignore: Software Defined Networking (SDN).
Now the fight is on for which standard will win out, which company will choose the best route to market and which start-up will be the next billion dollar company as more innovation hits networking than ever before.
Here are the top 10 stories of an exciting 2012 for networking:
Networks might be getting a lot of attention in IT right now, but it seems businesses want to bring the focus internally, rather than putting cash in the pockets of external firms. A survey from Computer Weekly and TechTarget showed IT buyers were moving away from using external networking services, mostly due to a lack of budget, and keeping skills in their own departments for the technology.
HP is finally making a big push in networking and is seeing solid results, but even its vice-president in charge of the European networking business believes it is a much misunderstood technology.
The reputation for wireless networking has been growing over 2012 and new innovations, such as WiFox – which will use software to boost performance by up to 700% – are helping it on its way into the workplace.
As well as new innovations, older technologies have been gaining traction in 2012 and undergoing revamps. Video conferencing is one such service with many new players coming onto the pitch, but in the UK, businesses want a standard before they really start ramping up adoption.
At the start of the year, SDN was seen as the playground for the start-ups, toying with new ideas and innovations to create the next big thing. As Emulex pointed out though, it would not be long before the big networking companies had to get into the game too.
SDN kept being cited as a hot topic but it was all words and no action from a lot of the big suppliers. When VMware stood up and put $1.05bn on the table for Nicira – reportedly besting an offer from Cisco – the industry sat up and listened.
Now it was time for the rest of the big guns to make their play in the SDN market and next up was Brocade. Although it had often touted its belief in SDN, it was with the acquisition of Vyatta that it was taken seriously.
SDN is threatening the hold Cisco has on the networking industry as the largest provider of proprietary hardware. It has taken the approach with SDN that having software and hardware from the same provider means performance will be better. Although many in the industry disagree, playing on the inherent paranoia with networking customers may enable it to win the market for now.
Silicon Valley is awash with start-ups focusing on SDN technologies but all the buzz from California seemed to be on Big Switch Networks and the industry waited with bated breath for the firm to launch its first products. These came in November to much applause.
The only way to keep up with the market is through innovation and being the first one out there with new and exciting products. Some chose to invest in research and development in-house to achieve this but the biggest networking player, Cisco, plumped for buying the talent in. With 10 acquisitions in 2012 by the start of December, it is clearly serious about this direction.