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Working the network

01 May 10

The cost savings and business returns of network convergence have been apparent for some time. Now we are driving convergence to new levels across many fronts.

Modern networks are no longer about basic connectivity. As more applications converge on the network, the network in turn needs to be more intelligent and better able to differentiate how applications are being used.

While core networking infrastructure products like routers, LAN switches, wide area network (WAN) acceleration and wireless LAN are the core tools to make this happen, the actual intelligence in those networking devices will be critical to support the next wave of applications and convergence and mobile users.

Three key current networking trends that are having an impact on businesses everywhere include:

Continued network convergence

While service virtualisation is driving device consolidation, the integration of wired and wireless is driving access unification. Cloud computing is narrowing the gap between private and public infrastructures. In addition, the increased take-up of Ethernet use is bringing together the local, wide and storage-area networks.

As the network is required to provide a platform for the convergence of systems, another platform for the convergence of systems is emerging: one concerning energy management. This extends from large electricity grid initiatives, transforming them into smart grids, to the use of the converged network as a tool in the management of energy consumption. Network-based energy management systems will drive the next wave of convergence across IT and facilities.

Each of these convergence movements prompts radical technological progression and process improvements; the 802.11n amendment has brought wireless performance in line with wired performance; Ethernet-based storage facilitates unlimited access to information and rapid delivery; and secure developed cloud-based services deliver cost savings without affecting capabilities.

The history of convergence proves there is much potential in continued convergence.

Video everywhere, for everyone

Video is a key technology in networking. While necessitating improved network performance, it also pushes new device requirements – from corporate telepresence suites and private networks to user desktops and public networks. At the top level, video quality is already first-class, but even clearer interactions are in the pipeline. At a lower level, SMEs, and even consumers now have access to more affordable and more efficient systems, including telepresence options. Furthermore, lower-cost systems are also enabling the introduction of new applications such as interactive kiosks and remote customer-to-expert interactions.

Cloud-based services are even playing a part in the acceleration of video adoption, with publicly accessible telepresence suites and video web-conferencing.

Considering the proliferation of video requires caution – network capabilities need to remain in synch, and costs need to be kept in check.

Borderless users and their expectations

The success of networking is now being reviewed by a much wider audience than the traditional IT manager and CFOs.

The principal end-user is no longer the internal worker running static apps on the corporate LAN. Instead, today’s user is mobile, remote, external, visible to others, security-conscious, tech-savvy and information-hungry. Their expectations are putting huge pressure on the IT infrastructure as a whole – not just the network. They expect high-quality network access for a variety of mobile devices anytime, anywhere. That demand is placing a huge pressure on network performance, security and cost, so it is critical that there is the closest possible integration between the network, networked devices and applications.

Network services that adjust according to application demand guaranteed efficient resource access and use, as well as optimising application delivery across the network. Better still, they can even absorb applications into the network, all of which serves to satisfy this new breed of user.

Current and future networking trends are varied, diverse and to an extent unknown – where they move to next will definitely be interesting.

Businesses that understand what their customers’ drivers are will be well placed to meet their needs now and in the future.

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