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Pace of evolving network technology set to accelerate in 2014

27 Dec 2013

George Siamos, Country Manager ANZA, Extreme Networks, takes a look at networking trends during 2013 and checks his crystal ball to see what 2014 holds.

Year 2013 was marked by expansion and increasing complexity in networks as two key trends saw broad adoption in the enterprise: cloud hosted applications and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) support to embrace and accelerate enterprise mobility strategies.

Both of these movements reached maturity for IT departments and accelerated the pace of change for end users, making users and IT staff alike more efficient and effective.

Confidence in emerging technology steams from buyer understanding of the problems being resolved, which results from vendors demonstrating mature technology and business outcomes.

The reasons that cloud and BYOD had such a successful year in 2013 were underpinned by supporting technology and network readiness, and also by IT professionals’ ability to support the underlying infrastructure.

For cloud-hosted applications, the service providers have built their networks efficiently to scale using 10Gbe technology and network virtualisation to decrease costs.

Then they selected the applications that were standardised the most for delivery over the cloud, giving customers the choice of a small selection of standardised services and applications that worked for outsourcing yet avoided risking too much of their business on a network they did not operate and maintain.

For BYOD, the situation was dramatically different as immense pressure came from users to add their smartphones and tablets to the enterprise network, to become more efficient and create the same experience they are used to outside the enterprise. This drove both vendors and IT departments to provide access control and identity management solutions within the network infrastructure. Also larger WiFi redesigns took place to accommodate the explosive growth of new devices on the network.

The success of this trend meant that the burden of security and network authentication moved away from PC operating systems and demanded a network-centric approach. The resulting high volume deployment has delivered increased flexibility for users and created a path towards a future in which all devices are supported.

2014 – Year of SDN

SDN remains the subject of debate as we close the year and brings a number of challenges and opportunities. Clearly SDN has the potential to revolutionise enterprise networks by providing a (so far) unmatched level of agility, innovation and also automation that reduces the complexity and cost of network administration dramatically.

Vendors are in a race to demonstrate support for applications, while the debate continues with respect to the protocols and standards that should be leveraged to deploy a SDN solution. It has turned out that no single SDN architecture fits all needs in the market, so the SDN market is breaking up and aligning to the demands of the enterprise: the cloud data centre providers and service providers as well as the high performance computing (HPC) and research markets.

The ‘pure’ SDN architectures from the beginning of the hype have been augmented by more applications, and (northbound) API centric approaches focusing on applications and integration. However, recently underlying technologies, protocols and various overlay including very virtual switch centric solutions have shown up in the market.

Every architectural approach fits a specific market segment and set of requirements best, and so customers need to assess their necessities and find the right architectural fit in 2014.

Several of those new architectures are deployable today at scale, as they rely on existing protocols and also provide a smooth migration and integration into existing, heterogeneous network infrastructures.

Without a doubt, we will see a larger adoption of SDN across the board including the enterprise.

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