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IT Priorities 2016: Mobile support and SDN top the network agenda

Computer Weekly’s annual IT Priorities research reveals that UK buyers are responding well to network and mobile tech that supports remote working strategies

After years of warnings over the perceived impact on productivity and security, remote and mobile working seems to be catching on among UK enterprises, according to the results of Computer Weekly’s 2016 IT Priorities study.

Asked which networking initiatives they would implement in 2016, respondents to the annual survey were quick to point to technology that would help make remote working a reality.

Just over a quarter (26.9%) said they were looking at implementing virtual private networks (VPNs), while 22.4% said they were eyeing remote access and branch office connectivity.

When respondents were asked what deployment models were favoured for 2016, mobile ranked third behind on-premises software and hardware, and software-as-a-service (SaaS), with 37.5% of respondents singling it out.

Diving deeper into mobile projects planned for 2016, support for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programmes and/or corporate-issued device programmes were both high on the agenda.

The biggest priority for mobile projects was the deployment of enterprise mobility management solutions, with 47.2% noting this trend. This suggests CIOs are well awake to the network security risks that go hand-in-hand with mobile.

Of less interest currently was the deployment of mobile app development platforms, cited by just 18.9%. Taken alongside the fact that 34% were looking to deploy a mobile enterprise app, this would appear to suggest that IT departments still prefer to get a supplier to do the legwork for them rather than invest in in-house development.

Meanwhile, despite much hype in recent months, wearables have failed to raise much interest, with just 9.4% saying they would look to adopt the technology this year.

Read more about IT spending priorities in 2016

The headline findings of the survey seem to reflect other recent reports on mobile and remote working, which show a move towards widespread acceptance.

Earlier this year, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), alongside Hewlett-Packard Enterprise’s (HPE’s) wireless unit Aruba, produced statistics that suggested businesses that adopted remote and mobile working practices became more productive, more creative, had more satisfied employees and less staff attrition.

The EIU also rubbished claims of a link between mobile working and so-called millennials, saying it had found mobile was attractive to all age groups in the enterprise.

SDN close to mainstream, but confusion over NFV

One notable finding from the report was the growth in interest in software-defined networking (SDN), with 17% of respondents considering deploying it this year, up from just 2% in 2015.

This contrasts with the findings of the 2015 report, which showed SDN had yet to prove itself in an enterprise setting.

A lack of reference customers using SDN in the wild was thought to be one of the main reasons for CIOs’ reluctance to embrace the technology.

The turnaround in the past 12 months suggests SDN has now overcome these barriers and is well on the way to becoming a mainstream enterprise technology.

However, there is still a gap in education around SDN and its counterpart, network functions virtualisation (NFV), which proved to be of less interest, with just 4.5% of respondents noting it.

The fundamental difference between SDN and NFV is that SDN is automated deployment of networking hardware, such as routers or switches, while NFV is the virtualisation of network services, such as load-balancing or firewalls.

While it is perfectly possible to have an NFV deployment without SDN involved, the two technologies are considered natural partners in the industry, so if the past 12 months are any indication, one can expect interest to increase in the near future.

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