Campus network switches aren’t updated as frequently as data center switches, but there are some good reasons why it may be worthwhile to upgrade now and not wait until the end of the regular refresh cycle.
Practically speaking, campus networking is wireless networking, and there are more devices connecting to the network. More devices mean more bandwidth requirements, and it’s hard to figure out what the BYOD devices are going to be doing, whether it’s just plain download bandwidth, something time critical like VoIP, or a sudden surge like Apple iOS version updates. And once end users are tied to a new way of using devices, network teams are often forced to adapt. BYOD not only means bring your own devices, but “because you’re overly demanding”
New applications also may drive new wireless use. Retailers may work with hyper-location services to track where shoppers are, and perhaps even send notifications. These require more coverage for accuracy, and that means more ports on switches for wireless access points to connect to.
Speaking of watching over people, video surveillance is another key use of networks at the campus, and with 1080p (high definition) video rates. Because IP security cameras are mostly on, they consume plenty of bandwidth, as well as power that’s supplied by Power over Ethernet.
And let’s not forget the needs of IT departments themselves. New switches offer better management capabilities, such as the ability to treat all ports and switches in a unified way, even if switches are stacked or found on port extenders. These will help drive operating expenses down.
Security capabilities are often integrated with new campus switch platforms, and ESG’s research shows that 41% of users look for modern capabilities such as security to drive campus networking upgrades.
Security is a key issue for the campus, since end users are the source for much of malware. Juniper’s Unite architecture with Sky Advanced Threat protection and Junos Fusion Enterprise and Cisco’s APIC-EM are a few of the new ways in which security and policy control are addressed.
Let’s look at the reasons enterprises should consider campus switch upgrades, with supporting data, soon to be published, from recent ESG research. ESG surveyed 306 IT managers about key drivers for campus switch upgrades, allowing participants to choose three (so the total reflected in the following may not be 100%).
More wireless devices place new demands on the campus edge. A typical office employee may have a laptop, a smartphone, and perhaps a tablet, which together will increase the pressure on the WiFi and wired networks. ESG research in 2015 for campus networking shows that more wireless endpoints is the foremost driver for network switch upgrades, with 44% of respondents rating the wireless deluge as a top factor.
WiFi speeds are increasing with adoption of 802.11ac (gigabit wireless), which most mobile devices will support soon. Thirty-three percent of the respondents in ESGs survey rated speed as the reason for switch upgrades.
Forty-one percent of respondents cited modern networking capabilities (including security) and 31% cited compatibility with modern management software such as controllers as a reason for a switch upgrade. Modern switches are offering new capabilities via hardware and software such as unified management. Examples include Brocade HyperEdge on ICX line, Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller Enterprise Module (APIC-EM), Dell C9010 Network Directors unified management, HP IMC for management, Juniper Unite architecture with Sky Advanced Threat protection and Junos Fusion Enterprise.
Demanding applications like video
Thirty-one percent of those surveyed stated that more demanding campus applications are requiring a change. Video surveillance is a key driver, and cameras are increasingly being managed by IT and are digital devices, with 1080p (HD video) being common. Cameras often require Power over Ethernet, and new switches meet the latest PoE standards. Another reason may be hyper-location apps. Users such as retail stores and casinos want improved location-based services, which requires more wireless access points, which in turn demands more campus ports. Note that enterprise video surveillance is typically wired, and not on WiFi.
Switches are failing or getting old. Twenty-eight percent of those polled said their hardware is failing, and 23% said that existing switches are reaching end of support. About half of the respondents replace their switches every four to five years.