Network prediction: Has the networking industry changed in a decade?

Network architect and Ethereal Mind blogger Greg Ferro reflects on how little has changed over ten years in his latest network prediction for the UK. Network security risks remain problematic

In 2002 I wrote an article for TechTarget with ten predictions for Networking in 2003. Now I ask myself how much has changed in the past decade. Sadly, my answer is: Not much.

We had evolutionary change -- faster Ethernet and cheaper products, but nothing that really made a difference to the way we work. In 2001 I was planning for IPv6 as the next big thing - ten years layer I’m still planning for IPv6

Let's go through each of these 2003 predictions and see whether they are relevant today:

1.  Security will continue to the MOST BORING issue, again and again and again... 

IT Security is still boring and remains largely irrelevant. We saw EMC/RSA andhardware tokens get massively compromised this year, and no one was much bothered. Even though there were huge breaches from smallest to biggest companies, which leaked tens of millions of people’s private information, not a single government reacted.

Sony was breached and millions of credit card details were stolen on its PlayStation network, and then almost every other business unit in Sony was also compromised showing that Sony had no security plan or any motivation to implement it.

IT Managers sighed wearily and spent some more money on the next security thing, grumbled about the inability to measure security and promptly forgot about it. Security is still boring and no one really cares.

2. Wireless networking will continue to be massively over-hyped because it's the only fun thing in the market.

Its taken ten years for wireless networking to take off, but it had to wait for portable computing to go mainstream in the form of wireless phones, tablets and netbooks. But wireless isn't stable yet. Vendors all release varying, non-interoperable products and technical features. The spatial reuse 3x3 spectrum and 4 channel antennas are the current touchstone, but there will be another technology next week.

 3. Performance doesn't matter anymore 

A decade later, this is still true. We have so much server capacity that we have invented the blah blah cloud to use it up. New applications and uses are possible because of the extra capacity, and “big data” uses a lot of compute, but most companies are not worried about performance like they did fifteen years ago when CPU's, memory, disk drives and networking were genuinely slow.

4. Citrix/terminal server is not a very good idea. Everyone will finally work that out this year and begin using the Web.

In 2001, Application as a Service was the problem and companies were replacing Windows desktops with Citrix thin clients to remote data centres. Today we call it the cloud and it also will not be a very good idea. Everyone did move to the web, and Citrix became a niche product that some people use.

5. Security consultants are all sharks; smart sharks some of them, but still sharks.

Next time your “security consultant” talks about improving security, ask them to quantify the improvement as a percentage. Then write it into the contract that your risk has been reduced by this percentage.

6. The Big Four won't be so big next year because smaller companies deliver better results and actually know what they are talking about (instead of wearing shiny suits that bill in 6-minute intervals).

The small companies from 2002 have all been replaced with lots of new ones. The Big Four networking companies of 2002 (Nortel, 3Com, Cisco and DEC) are all gone except for Cisco. Ten years later we are watching a resurgence in big companies as HP and Dell move to compete with Cisco. I got this half right.

7.  HP will work it out, thus forcing Dell to change its model.

HP did work it out - ("it" was the purchase of Compaq Computers). Dell did have to change its model to include professional services and products that weren’t computers. Today, HP and Dell have networking and storage products to round out the product portfolio for a full service. HP is also building a professional services business buy struggling to get it right. 

8. IBM will keep doing whatever it is it does and not be challenged by anyone.

No one really knows what IBM does these days, and the company keeps announcing bigger profits every year.

9/10. Microsoft will be abused by just about everyone (except Fred Langa) and will deserve it.

Microsoft continues to deliver poor quality products and is extensively criticised by the shareholders, customers, analysts, and users. It’s losing market share in almost every category while extracting an enormous profit from Microsoft Office and its share price is the same in 2011 as it was in 2002.

So what's actually new this year?

Networking is still all about frames and packets. In 2002, it was clear that Ethernet would defeat Token Ring and FDDI and that's what we have today.

In 2012 we will get more Ethernet in the form of 10 GbE. We will get bigger switches that go faster. We will get more firewalls that few people can operate correctly. Cisco will continue to dominate the networking industry even though HP and Dell are attacking the market.

IPv6 still won't happen this year because the recession means no budgets for upgrades. There are enough IPv4 addresses around for most everyone to ignore IPv6 except in the Chinese and Asia Pacific regions.

The only thing that excites me is the rise of software defined networking because after fifteen years of waiting, we really need network management that actually does things. Monitoring is more or less under control, but management and automated configuration is the most exciting thing that might happen this year. I'm tired of configuring VLAN s; I don't need to do it anymore.

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