Users saw plunging Gigabit Ethernet prices in 1998 -- along with broader protocol and WAN support for Layer 3 switches -- and these trends, along with developments in policy networking, are expected to grab the technology spotlight this year.
These technologies promise to reshape the way users build and manage corporate networks, as they provide more bandwidth and the ability to phase out routers and offer new tools to administer networks, analysts said.
"These things are important because users can never get enough bandwidth and control," said Craig Johnson, president of the PITA Group, a Portland, Oregon, consultancy. "And the great news for users is pricing for Gigabit and Layer 3 switches is coming down because of intensified competition."
Switches with built-in routing, also known as Layer 3 switches, are expected to catch on as router replacements once the boxes are equipped with WAN interfaces and support for multiple protocols -- two features backbone routers have long had.
"Once vendors support more protocols, acceptance of Layer 3 switching should increase dramatically," said Eric Pylko, global infrastructure coordinator at Eastman-Kodak Corp. in Rochester, New York.
Policy networking -- the ability to set per-employee rules for network access and prioritize applications for bandwidth-constrained times -- is also expected to draw users' attention this year.
While Nortel Networks, Lucent Technologies Inc. and others have already licensed Novell Inc.'s Novell Directory Services (NDS) for policy networking, Cisco is going with Microsoft Corp.'s Active Directory, which is part of Windows 2000 (the next version of Windows NT, due to ship this year). Cisco has a deal with Novell, but hasn't licensed NDS.