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Global enterprise in midst of major network refresh, says report

Businesses are upgrading their networks to embrace workplace mobility, IoT and SDN strategies, but are neglecting security, says Dimension Data

The average age of networking equipment deployed in enterprises worldwide has dropped for the first time in a number of years as more businesses adapt and refresh their infrastructure in support of new initiatives such as software-defined networking (SDN), automation, cloud deployment, and the internet of things (IoT).

This was the main finding of Dimension Data’s latest Network Barometer Report, which found that the proportion of ageing or obsolete networking devices in use fell from 60% in 2015 to 29% in 2016.

Dimension Data has produced its Network Barometer Report annually since 2009. It based its 2016 statistics on around 300,000 service incidents logged on client networks that it supports, alongside 320 technology lifecycle management assessments covering 97,000 networked devices in 28 countries.

“Since 2010, networks had been ageing. This year’s report reverses that trend and, for the first time in five years, we’re seeing networks age more slowly,” said Dimension Data’s senior practice manager for network consulting, Andre van Schalkwyk.

“Ageing networks are not necessarily a bad thing, companies just need to understand the implications. They require a different support construct, with gradually increasing support costs. On the other hand, this also means that organisations can delay refresh costs,” he said.

The report also found that network equipment refreshes tended to be more strategic, and undertaken with a wider architectural vision in mind.

Additionally, much of the ongoing refresh seemed to be being undertaken in preparation for future deployments – Dimension Data found that while there was market interest in SDN, for example, few organisational networks were capable of supporting it.

In a similar vein, the percentage of devices supporting IPv6 rose sharply from 21% to 41% in 2016, enabling more businesses to support digitisation strategies by enabling connectivity for the IoT, big data, analytics and containerisation.

Worryingly, Dimension Data also identified a major increase in security vulnerabilities, with 76% of the 97,000 devices it examined having at least one known flaw, up from 60% in 2015. In Europe, this figure rose from 51% in 2015 to 82% in 2016. In Australia, the 2016 figure was even higher at 87%.

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