What's the future of enterprise networking?

HP ProCurve's country manager, South Pacific, Gurkirat Singh offers his vision for the future of enterprise networks.

2008 has been a roller-coaster ride of uncertainty. Every day we seem to hear new reports of organisations facing unexpected pressures and challenges. ProCurve’s Gurkirat Singh reports on the current state of play and provides common sense advice on what to do.

To prosper in these uncertain times, businesses are telling us that they are looking to improve their operational efficiency and reduce ongoing costs, while staying flexible enough to cope with the unexpected. Employee productivity is a strong focus, and so are technologies that enable staff mobility and streamline communications.

We believe that to respond to the pressing business needs we are all facing today, enterprise networks need to change. In particular, they need to become more flexible, and deliver lower running costs, without the need to constantly rip and replace infrastructure.

To improve network and application reliability, key network functions such as security and quality of service should ideally be implemented on a network-wide basis. To achieve this, intelligence must be pushed out to the edge of network, so that application security and performance can be guaranteed all the way to the user.

The intelligence built into the network needs to do more than make a decision about who can connect - it needs to continuously monitor actions and optimise performance once a user is connected.

In addition, in recent years enterprises have unchained employees from their desks in ever greater numbers. The popularity of handheld and mobile devices has led to an explosion in end user demand for safe and reliable wireless network access. After years of testing the waters, many organisations are playing catch-up, and looking to rapidly deploy wireless networks.

Those organisations that have already rolled out large wireless networks have discovered that automated management tools can make a huge difference to running costs.

Without automated wireless management tools, huge amounts of support resources can be wasted dealing with hundreds of wireless users, managing security, and troubleshooting the complex problems that can occur. At ProCurve we have focused significant research and development effort into solving these issues, and are already deploying solutions for clients that allow seamless management and troubleshooting - regardless of how the user is connecting to the network.

For traditional network switches, there can also be significant differences in the total lifetime cost between solutions from different vendors. Ongoing costs to consider include energy usage, the space taken up by the solution, service contract and software upgrade costs, and the amount of staff time required for ongoing administration.

From experience, the best way to keep costs down is to source solutions in a competitive environment, where you put yourself in a situation where you can choose from several suppliers. The key to achieving that is to use open standards.

Of course we want to be the preferred partner for our customers, but the choice needs to be in our customer’s hands. We have found that many organisations can reduce the total lifetime running cost of their network solution by 25 to 50% by keeping their options open, and shopping around.

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