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IT Is Woefully Behind Network Updates

The focus on software features and APIs in network equipment means a renewed emphasis on network maintenance that is severely lacking today. Network automation, adaptation and virtualization are increasingly focused around the software features of network equipment. The days of "speeds and feeds" have given way to the API. It is funny, I hear so much talk about APIs from network vendors that I am waiting for someone to tell me about the "Virtual, open-source, multi-port network appliance." It is probably out there already, so send me the link if you have it.

This emphasis on software requires a new vigor around software maintenance, and this is an area that is virtually non-existent in most IT environments that we see. Network engineers are not paying enough attention to the software on their equipment. If IT plans on having the network power (in some cases literally), then IT must develop a methodology and strategy to update the software on its network equipment on a more regular basis.

Unfortunately, most IT infrastructure administrators are terrible about updating their software. Over the past month, I have been preparing RISC Networks' annual "State of the Network" report, and the data confirms that most engineers have an "if it ain't broke, don't upgrade it" attitude regarding their infrastructure equipment. In preparing our report, we took a look at 268 of the networks that we have performed analysis for over the last 8 months, and the problem of outdated software was rampant in many of these environments.

Of 268 engagements, 208 had at least one device with software that was over three years old. The oldest network software we detected was compiled in 1996. Seriously, 1996. Before you laugh, based on our data, your network is probably not too much better. We identified 480 total network devices that had software on them from before 2000. That is almost two percent of the over 30,000 network devices tested. These devices were spread among 48 different customers, or 18 percent of the networks included in the survey. If you raise the date threshold to 2004, indicating software that is at least 6 years old, the number jumps to 183 customers and 6,348 devices. That is almost 70 percent of networks. To add a little perspective, 2004 is the year that EMC bought VMWare for only $651 Million! Do you think the world of networking has changed since then? Then it is time to upgrade your software.

Cisco users seem to be the worst. While we had a significantly higher count of Cisco devices (28,0000+), they seemed to have the biggest problem staying current. The most popular Cisco IOS deployed is IOS Version 12.2(35)SE5. It accounts for 1,961 devices or roughly seven percent of all IOS devices. It was compiled in 2007 and is three years old. To put that into perspective, the code that powers seven percent of the Cisco devices in 268 networks was written before the iPhone was released.

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