Peek down the wire

Peek down the wire

Next year has the potential to be one of the best in a long time, according to some industry punters, as the networking industry bounces back after a challenging 2000.

While a lot of trends in networking will continue from this year (wireless, security, storage), it will be new opportunities that spark resellers' interest.

After a stop-start year, 2001 will see the emergence of global customers for global systems integrators (SIs) according to Colin McKenna, vice president, Marketing Group Australia, of high-end integrator Avnet Computer.

McKenna believes a small but lucrative market at the high-end enterprise level is opening up to international SIs that can replicate solutions, such as VPNs, for their customers' multinational office locations.

This represents a maturing of the networking market, claims McKenna, while for smaller Australian SIs, this means a tougher sell into companies with international locations. "It's going to put more pressure on the smaller [SIs] but you can get around it by partnering. It's just easier if you have the size," McKenna said.

Another trend McKenna identifies is the maturing thin-client and Web-enabled applications market. With more companies trying to provide customers, partners and mobile staff access to corporate information on the fly, the server market is consolidating around larger server farms.

This is going to be a boom sector of the market for networkers to integrate back-end processes with front-end CRM software and other applications - and make it available via wireless devices and the Internet, claims McKenna. There is also the associated storage component of a network that has to be considered.

According to research from International Data Corp (IDC), one of next year's big opportunities lie in IP telephony. IDC predicts the Asia-Pacific market (excluding Japan) will increase at a rate of 104 per cent (compound annual growth) to $US6.9 billion by 2005.

Using the Internet or a company's private network to make calls has been the promised land for a couple of years now, however, IDC research suggests IP telephony's day has finally come.

The market will be spurred on by peripheral services including videoconferencing and low-cost calls, but will be countered by government regulations (outside Australia), the high cost of initial hardware investment and local taxation laws, IDC states.

IDC added that the IP telephony market is still gestating, with most implementations restricted to carriers and ISPs. But this is set to change, with a number of enterprises conducting beta tests for VoIP platforms.

Further down the enterprise food chain into the SME market, networking companies looking for new revenue opportunities are busily eyeing home networking as the last frontier. Like IP telephony where traditional telephone system resellers are partnering with traditional data network resellers, home networking will see a blurring of the IT, electronics and media/entertainment channels.

In this case, electricians will become adept at laying Internet and fibre cables, while home entertainment technicians will have to learn how to interface their TV/DVD and audio systems with existing PC-based networks.

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