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5 Inevitable Trends That Could Cripple Your Network

  • Now that the "perfect storm" of technologies is upon us, the enterprise network is coming into its own. Networking professional often report feeling underappreciated because of the emergence of technologies like virtualization and automation. But, when examined closely, the network is on the brink of a moment of truth. Enterprises that understand the importance and value of the network will invest in the technology and leverage their infrastructure in order to build entirely new capabilities and streams of revenue. Those that don't will fall by the wayside.

    According to Verizon, the network has become "your business' central nervous system." We expect capabilities like ecommerce, quick tracking of products, systems and services, instant access, and cool customer apps and analytics. But none of that is possible without the network as the basic foundation. If the network isn't up to snuff, the business services won't be, either.

    Verizon may hold this opinion partly because it makes a living running one of the largest networks in the world, but the sentiment echoes what we've been saying at Network Computing for years. The carrier commissioned Forrester Research to conduct a study about business challenges and IT transformation. In the resulting report, they conclude, "the network is arguably the single most important focus for enterprise technology investments in the next five years."

    The network is a competitive advantage, but IT must help their business peers understand how that advantage can be exploited. IT pros are getting on board; nearly 80% of the 600 decision makers polled by Forrester said it is IT's responsibility to ensure the network can support their company's digital plans.

    The Forrester survey identified five technologies that are already here or imminent for most companies, but that will require a bulletproof network to thrive and generate new business opportunity. Most of them (if not all) will seem pretty obvious individually. But take a moment to think about the combination of these effects on your network and how much your infrastructure can realistically handle.

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  • Mobility

    It may seem that mobility is everywhere already, but mobile technology continues to evolve and remains a critical platform for creating new services and improving to employee and customer satisfaction. In Forrester Research's survey, 65% of respondents said they plan to expand their enterprise mobility services to meet their business priorities. That expansion will have a direct impact on networks, both for carriers and enterprises.

    Businesses have the potential to deliver services to and collect data from an endless number of devices, users, and application types, but they must support that with a robust wireless infrastructure that can grow with rapid increases in demand. A transition from pockets of wireless LANs to pervasive mobile environments will provide improved internal communications and facilitate new business prospects, especially when it comes to the Internet of Things.

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  • Cloud

    Many services that make up part of our personal lives such as Google, Facebook and Dropbox -- rely on the cloud; and in the enterprise, cloud tools and services are even more pervasive. Cloud computing has truly changed the economics of business and entrepreneurship by enabling almost anyone to launch a new product or service to a global audience. But networking technology and deployments are holding the cloud back.

    In the Forrester Research study, 67% of respondents reported that legacy network infrastructure is a bottleneck in enterprise IT, especially for cloud. An intelligent network that is on par with cloud development will enable organizations to deploy and scale applications faster and more efficiently. Verizon advocates utilizing multiple cloud providers, leveraging scalable bandwidth and content delivery networks where possible, and investigating hybrid WAN to stay ahead of the curve.

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  • The Internet of Things

    If you're still convinced that the Internet of Things (IoT) is simply hype or a passing fad, you'd better think again. At its annual IT Expo this week, Gartner predicted spending on IoT hardware will exceed $2.5 million during every minute in 2016. And Verizon estimates the market growing from 1.6 billion devices in 2015 to 5.4 billion by 2020. This development is changing the way we think about computing, storage, security and data, and will put unprecedented pressure on network infrastructure -- connecting billions of things, people and places that never required a connection before. Architectures must be adapted or created from scratch to accommodate the vast collection, transportation, processing and presentation of data that the IoT will bring.

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  • Big data and analytics

    All of the technologies mentioned here have the byproduct of creating more and more data for the enterprise. The skyrocketing increase in data, and the desire to better understand and use that data, has many enterprises pursuing big data initiatives. Those initiatives often lead to data center network upgrades, but may require a whole new architecture. Managing big data processing on an enterprise-wide basis also runs counter to the monolithic data center networks we've created. Distributing large data loads across multiple locations, compute resources or locations will demand far-reaching networks with high bandwidth and low latency.

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  • Immersive communications and collaboration

    Employees need to collaborate with colleagues and have instant access to data, without the challenges caused by manual processes and legacy systems. Communications and collaboration solutions now allow businesses to assemble the best people to do a job, regardless of their location. Information sharing between companies in organizational settings; between suppliers, vendors and clients; or for special projects has also become the norm. Virtual reality is beginning to compound those benefits, providing immersive worlds for sharing knowledge and changing how specialists like doctors and architects learn their crafts and perform their jobs. But it's up to technologists to ensure that the infrastructure for communications and collaboration remains solid, while laying the groundwork for these next-generation capabilities.

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