by Stuart Hardy, Business Unit Manager of EOH’s Carrier and Network Solutions Division
A range of nascent technologies are having a powerful impact on enterprise networking. The new enterprise IT landscape of cloud services, mobility and BYOD, social media usage and big data analytics creates very different types of network traffic to the traditional mix of in-house client-server enterprise workloads.
A brief overview of these next-generation network developments provides much for modern IT managers to consider…
Two key demands – bandwidth and low latency
The emerging trends in the way people work and how business information is collected and processed translates into increasing pressure on today’s wired and wireless networks at all scales of operation: data centre, LAN, campus and WAN.
Primary among these pressures are the need for more bandwidth to cope with richer workloads and lower latency, particularly in the WAN space. This is essential to deliver usable response times, particularly for key cloud-based applications and services.
Cloud networks are becoming more complex and mission-critical, as the adoption of cloud computing technology spreads. To manage network traffic and deliver acceptable service quality to the business, IT managers need increasingly sophisticated tools. And of course security measures need to keep pace.
What challenges does the modern network face?
Illumination from the coalface itself comes from Cisco’s 2013 Global IT Impact Survey. The overwhelming majority of IT decision makers feel that the role of their networks is to deliver applications, in a much more critical way than a year ago. This makes sense, given that big data analysis, mobile applications and Software-as-a-Service have become far more prevalent in enterprises.
The most challenging areas are also revealed. Firstly, the BYOD phenomenon. Almost half of the respondents indicated that their networks are not ready to support it. Similarly, they also felt unprepared for cloud deployments.
Two important nascent technologies also pose significant challenges for next generation networks: software-defined networking (SDN) and the Internet of things (IoT). Surprisingly, there isn’t much familiarity with these developments among the respondents, let alone preparedness. A full 42% of the respondents feel that they are only “somewhat familiar” with IoT, and while around half of the sample is evaluating SDN, the other half is obviously not, with almost a quarter of them claiming to not know anything about it. SDN is the decoupling of the network’s data layer from the software control layer. (For a deeper discussion of SDN, read my previous article on how SDN is changing things
How next-generation networks need to evolve
Highly virtualised, application rich networks are becoming essential. Network access needs to be available on a range of client devices, often of the BYOD variety. Network traffic now routinely comprises voice, video and applications in addition to the traditional data transmission. So application-specific traffic management becomes important, particularly over bandwidth-limited WANs. Network management is ultimately in the service of end-user experience, requiring that this always remain the primary aim.
On top of these imperatives is the need for more efficient utilisation of network resources, and for these resources to be rapidly deployable and easily scalable. Next-generation networks also pose serious management and security challenges, particularly for IT professionals who are more used to working with “traditional”, largely wired enterprise networks with a limited client list of devices, mostly desktops.
Building a next-generation enterprise network involves a lot more than installing faster wired Ethernet connections between clients, servers, routers and switches. The network now needs to extend well beyond the confines of the in-house data centre and LAN to include the campus, branch offices, employees on the road and at home, and key partners, customers and/or clients. It’s virtually an entirely new world of networking, which requires different ways of thinking and a much wider scope of approach.
Stuart Hardy has been in the ICT industry since 1997, has been in the Telecommunications industry since 1997, intimately involved in product development, operations and product marketing roles. He has held Executive level positions in some of the largest Operators in South Africa and has founded and driven two successful start-up companies in the Mobile data and Wireless networking spaces. Today, Stuart is a Divisional Director for EOH in their Telecommunications sector.