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Networks get smarter

Networks get smarter

It's not just the students that are getting smarter at the University of Canberra but also the IT network and associated devices. Campus network manager, Geoff Rozenberg, said the push towards an intelligent network brought a host of benefits but also had a dark side. "When you introduce change, particularly in IT, you have to consider the political aspect. The added functionality and control isn't always conducive to a university environment," he said.

"The added security and authentication can be an administrative headache." But benefits, including increased network visibility and manageability, far outweigh drawbacks. The university supports 14,000 students at one large campus and deploys switching for up to 6000 nodes, Rozenberg said. With an intelligent network, he said the university was better able to detect unauthorised users and manage incidents in a controlled way. He could also recreate switches that failed, which ultimately boosted disaster recovery capabilities.

AHEAD OF THE PACK

The University of Canberra is slowly but surely taking a step in the direction of smart networks. A similar move is needed in enterprise environments, IDC telecommunications analyst, Shing Quah, said. Now that prices had come down on some of the network hardware, smaller companies could also make networks shine a bit brighter and act a little smarter.

"Smarter networks are the way forward," Quah said. "Enterprises need to deliver more than basic connectivity and speed. A smarter network is one that is application aware, and is capable of dynamic resource allocation per application and user." Cisco technology and business group account manager, Brad Engstrom, said the market was headed towards networks that were application aware and dynamically responsive.

"We're no longer worrying about the connectivity, but wondering how we get the applications to work well," he said. "We know how to get the data reliably across the link, and how to find it, but we don't know much about the applications. It's all about the network knowing specific things about the applications, and being able to make modifications to them."

IDC's Quah estimated the local LAN, WAN and WLAN hardware market at $US708 million in 2006. She predicted it would reach $US856 million by 2010.

THE ROAD AHEAD

The industry was currently moving towards adding a deeper level of intelligence into all devices, Express Data vendor channel manager, David Peach, said. He used a road analogy where a single strip of tarmac was replaced by several different roads with added visibility and increased information including signs, lights and sensors that monitor traffic flow.

Most manufacturers are addressing what the added intelligence will require in terms of form factor, price and performance as well as robust policy management and enforcement schemes. And with the network able to take care of problems without anyone getting involved, Peach said this was a good selling pitch resellers should start talking up.

"The intelligent network story allows resellers or integrators to build tighter relationships with customers," he said. "It creates environments with visible results, and offers some real cost savings. The challenge for a distributor is skilling up resellers on all the latest features."

The behavioural change driving the shift to intelligent networks is attributed to the growing number of mission critical applications like VoIP, video, CRM and ERP applications that are streamed over the network, IDC's Quah said. Users are getting more demanding as their needs increase,


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