Top 10 networking stories of 2014

Computer Weekly takes a look back at the year in networking with a round-up of the biggest stories from 2014

For more than 20 years the network has sat at the heart of IT as an indispensable asset to the business and, with the growing demand for connectivity around the world and the growth of the internet of things sucking up ever more network resource, 2014 saw massive demands made on the world’s infrastructure.

Meanwhile, growth in software-defined networks and network functions virtualisation saw the old guard of suppliers increasingly challenged and, in the wake of the Edward Snowden affair, the convergence of networking and security was more pronounced than ever in the eyes of the general public.

Computer Weekly takes a look back at the year in networking with a round-up of the biggest stories from 2014.

1. Cisco to Obama: get the NSA out of our hardware

In an open letter to US president Barack Obama, Cisco’s outspoken CEO John Chambers called on the president to rein in the activities of the National Security Agency (NSA) after it was revealed the agency routinely tapped Cisco network hardware being exported outside the US, before putting it back into the supply chain.

In a book published by investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald, it emerged that the NSA routinely intercepted shipments of network hardware such as routers and servers and inserted surveillance tools into them before repackaging them and sending them on to their final destination.

In the letter, Chambers told the White House the allegations would “undermine confidence in our industry and in the ability of technology companies to deliver products globally”.

Chambers added that confidence in the open, global internet would be eroded by such invasions of privacy and exploitation of security vulnerabilities, and warned the scandal could even lead to the fragmentation of the internet.

The revelation that Cisco hardware had been used by the US government to snoop on a worldwide level left the supplier’s Chinese rival, Huawei, jumping for joy.

2. Government offers free Wi-Fi in 1,000 public buildings

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced plans to offer free public Wi-Fi hotspots in more than 1,000 public buildings as part of its Super-Connected Cities programme.

The government’s £150m Super-Connected Cities programme, managed by DCMS as part of Broadband Delivery UK, had already seen investment in broadband voucher programmes in 22 UK cities to help make them more attractive places to live, visit and conduct business in.

The next phase of Super-Connected Cities will see free Wi-Fi networks deployed at libraries, adult education facilities, civic centres, bus stations, youth clubs and many other public facilities.

Some of the more notable buildings to be included in the scheme will include the Brighton Pavilion, the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh and the British Museum in London. The scheme was granted a total of £30m from the £150m funding pot. All buildings named will be live by March 2015, said DCMS.

3. Microsoft Lync becomes Skype for Business

In the autumn, Microsoft announced it will be retiring the Microsoft Lync brand in 2015 with the next version of Redmond’s business communications and collaboration suite to be named Skype for Business.

Microsoft’s corporate vice-president of Office Lync and Speech Group, Gurdeep Pall, said Microsoft wanted to bring together the “familiar experience” and “user love” of consumer brand Skype with Lync’s security, compliance and control feature set.

Skype for Business will include features from both products, Microsoft claimed, including Skype icons for calling, adding video and ending a call; the addition of the Skype call monitor, which keeps an active call visible to the user even when he or she moved to another application; and access to the Skype user directory, meaning users will be able to call any Skype user on any device.

Meanwhile, it will also expand on the current capabilities contained in Lync, including content sharing and telephony, and one-click call transferring. Lync Server 2013 customers will receive the new Skype for Business Server as a software upgrade, while Office 365 customers will have the updates managed for them by Microsoft.

4. Cisco IDs five sectors to benefit from the internet of everything

A report from Cisco said that healthcare, retail, transport, energy and manufacturing will be the five verticals likely to benefit first from the internet of everything (IoE),

By 2020, 50 billion "things" will be connected to the internet, creating a market of $19tn, claimed the network supplier, with $28.4bn of profits to be generated in the UK.

Cisco UK & Ireland chief executive Phil Smith said: “The internet of everything provides the platform from which an ever-increasing number of connections will ‘wake up’ the world around us.

“With just 1% of the physical world connected at this time, this is just the beginning of an amazing future. As connections become smarter, faster and more insightful, we will only see more imaginative and ambitious applications of the IoE, which will, quite literally, change the world.”

Cisco UK & Ireland CTO Ian Foddering urged CIOs to look closely at their business models and be prepared to invest in the right skills to manage the growing number of connected objects.

5. Chambers attacks Barack Obama over net neutrality

Two days after US president Barack Obama came out in favour of net neutrality in November Cisco CEO John Chambers took to the microphone again, using his quarterly results call to reiterate Cisco’s position against the idea, saying it would hurt his business.

Chambers said he was seeing orders for network hardware from three major US service providers slowing dramatically – for which he pinned the blame firmly on the debate over net neutrality.

“That’s an implication, I think, of what you’re seeing in terms of net neutrality and Title II discussions going on where, in my opinion, it would be a very disappointing result if we moved back to regulation of the internet – like we did with voice many decades ago,” Chambers told analysts.

Joining a chorus of industry voices now ranged against net neutrality, he predicted that Title II regulation would hurt broadband providers' ability to build out fibre networks. Chambers said this would in turn damage the US economy.

AT&T said it will delay its fibre optic network deployment in 100 US cities, pending a final decision on net neutrality.

6. Tesco signs deal with Verizon for single global network

In January 2014, UK supermarket giant Tesco announced a deal with Verizon to migrate to a single network infrastructure, managing operations across 12 countries for internal corporate matters and partner/supplier communications.

The partnership will also build towards further projects, such as providing customer Wi-Fi in-store and a global desktop, integrating all its businesses onto a single platform.

Tesco CIO Mike McNamara said: “Whether in our stores, online, or on the move, we need our infrastructure to support our business goals. Verizon combines technology innovation with pragmatic application to help us build solutions for today and platforms to support the future of retail.”

The security element and service management framework is already live in every location, but Tomas Kadlec, group infrastructure IT director at Tesco, said the step was bringing internet connectivity to every office and store it owned around the globe.

7. BT picks up Welsh PSN contract

BT snaffled a major broadband, wide area network and IP services contract with the Welsh government from MSP Logicalis over the summer.

The Public Sector Broadband Aggregation contract for Wales covers the first public services network (PSN) to go live in the UK, and was one of a number of contracts awarded when the government first initiated the Broadband Aggregation project framework in 2004.

The Welsh government deployed its network with Logicalis in 2008 and by 2012 it had grown from 1,000 connections to 5,000 spread across 2,500 sites at 100 major organisations, and plans were in place to grow to more than 9,000 connections.

The contract was put out to tender last summer, and is worth more than £400m. It will see the BT take charge of IP services at education services, emergency services, hospitals and local council sites across Wales.

8. NetScout sues Gartner over Magic Quadrant placing

Network performance management specialist NetScout launched a lawsuit against analyst house Gartner after it was placed as a "challenger" on the Networking Performance Management Monitoring and Diagnostics (NPMD) Magic Quadrant.

In NetScout’s complaint, filed at the Connecticut Superior Court in Stamford, the supplier sued Gartner under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, and for corporate defamation arising from Gartner’s IT research business practices.

It said it had suffered “damage to its reputation, disparagement of its character, economic damage, lost business, [and] lost business opportunities” as a result of Gartner’s “false and defamatory” statements made with “actual malice, ill will, improper and malevolent purpose and with knowledge of their falsity or with reckless disregard for the truth”.

In a statement made available by Gartner, vice-president of corporate communications Andrew Spender dismissed the complaint as without merit.

“We intend to defend ourselves and the integrity of our research process vigorously,” said Spender. “We remain committed to providing our clients with independent research and advice about the products and services that we cover, and upon which they have relied for decades.”

9. BT sues NHS Scotland for £20m over Swan project

BT also took to the courts in 2014, suing NHS National Services Scotland after failing to win a court case for the procurement of the Scottish Wide Area Network (Swan) project to be re-run.

A government scheme led by the NHS, the idea behind SWAN was to create a shared network for all public sector organisations across the country, and save costs and improve performance.

BT bid for the £110m contract in 2012 and was shortlisted alongside joint bids from Cable & Wireless with Virgin Media Business, and Capita together with Updata Infrastructure.

However, once a preferred bidder was selected – understood to be Capita and Updata – BT made a formal complaint to the Court of Session claiming the tender process had not been based on getting the most economically viable bid and embarked on a court case to try and get the process re-run.

“Though BT’s primary aim was always to seek a re-run of the procurement process, the case will now proceed as a damages claim, Lord Malcolm having found damages to be an appropriate remedy,” said a spokeswoman from BT.

“We believe that it will now be unclear whether the most economically advantageous tender will be awarded. We believe our proposal offered excellent value and minimal risk to Scottish tax payers. Our bid was more than £10m below the price for which maximum points could be awarded under the NSS scoring process.”

10. TfL wastes millions on telecoms, says IIPAG watchdog

In July, the Independent Investment Programme Advisory Group (IIPAG) watchdog reporting to the mayor of London on Transport for London (TfL) said the transport body was wasting millions on telecoms and missing easy opportunities to meet cost-cutting targets.

Having recommended the creation of a single team to manage TfL’s system-wide network assets and services in 2013, IIPAG lamented a lack of progress and said the current contracts were not fit for purpose. It said TfL had contracted too many telecoms suppliers, including BT, CityLink Telecommunications and Fujitsu.

The body highlighted a number of issues to address, including a lack of accountability and strategic direction in managing telecoms assets; a lack of network management and overview of performance; substantial failings around network flexibility and resilience; inconsistency and uncertainty around network security delivery; an unknown extent of service and infrastructure duplication; and missed opportunities to lever economies of scale and commercial synergies.

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