Networks of the future

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Networks can be designed to handle a lot more. Intelligent networks need unification of wired and wireless access to support proliferation of devices and ubiquitous mobility

Networks of the future
Imagine a company where as soon as an employee enters the elevator a surveillance camera detects his face or photo ID and immediately connects with the authorised desktop to inform about his arrival so that the desktop turns on automatically.

In another context, imagine that the vice-president of sales can use his smartphone to access data by logging on to the corporate network securely and his technical team can stop worrying that accessing business-critical applications along with personal information will severely tax bandwidth.

While the scenarios appear futuristic, it is true that networks can be designed to handle a lot more than what they do today, be it determining what employees are doing or helping business leaders make better decisions. Organisations with such capabilities on their network will be much better equipped to handle any customer/employee queries in real time and provide them with a satisfactory experience. Such intelligent networks need unification of wired and wireless access to support the proliferation of devices and ubiquitous mobility.

Need for intelligence

Technology trends in enterprise computing are increasingly testing the limits of yesterday’s networks — many that were ‘good’ for yesterday are not ‘good enough’ for tomorrow. Consumerisation of IT, mobility, virtualisation and cloud computing along with a massive increase in video traffic are putting rising demands on the network. It is expected that by 2014, internet video alone will account for 57 per cent of all consumer traffic. Businesses are also increasingly using video technologies for surveillance, conferencing and digital signage. This demands a need to ensure that networking investments provide the needed intelligence to preplan, auto-configure and troubleshoot video endpoints and video flows.

Likewise mobility has progressed from an employee demand to a business necessity. Smartphones, tablet PCs and other mobile devices have not only revolutionised personal communication, but are also helping to increase productivity and keep businesses operating around the clock. By 2015, it is expected that there will be nearly one mobile-connected device for every person on earth. That’s 7.1 billion devices.

According to research firm Ovum, the numbers of smartphones in use will more than double and reach 600 million by 2015. Many of these devices will be used to access corporate data, which will be media rich, include video and other high-resolution picture-based features. Ovum also estimates that the personal mobile market will grow to 7.5 billion by end of 2015 and anticipates that more and more businesses will have moved to bring your own device (BYOD) policies and the proportion of companies providing employees with device like laptops and smartphones is expected to increase to 30 per cent within two years.

According to the Cisco’s visual networking index forecast, 54 per cent of workers say their mobile device is the most important technology in their lives, and that more than half of college students and employees want to use them in their work or school activities, feeding into the BYOD trend.

The increased complexity of the computing environment is introducing new vulnerabilities, resulting in more network attacks and increased demand for strong network performance and secure connectivity dramatically. Given the above, IT must find a way to accommodate multiple device types, multiple operating systems and enable secure access to network resources while protecting corporate assets. Along with the network, it is also be necessary to secure the variety of devices in use.

Security and mobility apart, regulations on carbon emissions are being developed and applied and businesses need to be ready both to monitor and manage carbon footprint. Innovations in network technology can drive a consolidated energy-efficiency strategy. So it is critical to ensure that the network infrastructure can monitor and manage energy usage and carbon emissions.

Clearly low-function networks hamper the IT department’s ability to say ‘yes’ to current technologies that deliver real business value, and to anticipate the future needs of the business. Next-generation networks, which support today’s enterprise computing trends and offer investment protection with innovations, are necessary to accommodate business and end-user needs. Organisations must invest in a next-generation networks built to enable business capabilities for today and tomorrow, save costs, gain competitive advantage, productivity and agility.

GenNext network

A next-generation network is a strategically developed network that is optimised for today’s requirements and is also customised to accommodate future technology disruptions and provide investment protection. It supports trends around mobility, cloud computing and the changing threat landscape and transforms the network into a service-delivery mechanism that enables IT organisations to not only say ‘yes’ to strategic business efforts, but also roll out these services broadly and deliver value back to the business. A next-generation network provides ease of use and management capabilities.

An enterprise next-generation network is a unified network consisting of wired and wireless, virtual private network (VPN), building and energy control. It integrates security capabilities from the premise to the cloud, leads to less administrative overhead and fewer security gaps. A next generation network is application and endpoint aware and adjusts to the application being delivered and the endpoint device on which it appears.

A next-generation network features media-aware controls to support voice and video integration, supports current standards and drives innovations that lead to future standards. When an intelligent network is aligned with business objectives and requirements it becomes an asset whose value is apparent to users and budget holders alike.

Architecture frameworks like the borderless network help to deliver a new set of network services, to support the demands of the business and end-users. However, creating a networking operating system that is more intelligent and contextualised requires companies to focus on application software, management software and the network operating system because the integration of all three drives intelligence within the network.

Transforming software to be much more of a competitive advantage helps organisations from legacy ways of thinking about operating systems to newer ways of creating networking operating systems that are much more intelligent and contextualised. This helps drive lower total cost of ownership for customers, ease of deployment and helps deliver more capability quicker.

In order to build next-generation networks, it is critical that vendors get the market transitions whether it is voice coming on data networks, video coming on data networks, domain controller (DC) virtualisation changing, the DC game or BYOD. Only then they will be rightly positioned with wired-wireless-security-management solutions for customers to trust them to build networks, which are future-proofed.

The future

In the future the role of network administrators’ will change, because rather than just focusing on how applications and devices connect to the network, they will have to look at the performance of the application on the network, make adjustments to packet transfer rates and integrate virtualisation into the network operating system.

Clearly, the network of the future will be incredibly flexible and intelligent. Services will be consumed dynamically, and this will be made possible by and is completely dependent on, dynamic and flexible network services. While there is an increasing pressure to anticipate the needs of the business and say ‘yes’ to new business-enhancing solutions; ‘yes’ to personally own mobile devices; ‘yes’ to public cloud services; ‘yes’ to videoconferencing and other rich media, next-generation technologies require a next-generation network that is architected to deliver reliability, agility and performance.

(The author is vice-president, borderless networks, Cisco India & Saarc)

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