As business needs change, so do the requirements for the business backbone. ARN looks at networking trends and technologies and reports on predictions for 2008 and beyond.
A IS FOR APPLICATION INTEGRATION
Gartner research director, Geoff Johnson, said network architects must prepare for dramatically increased integration between once-distinct communications tools spanning applications, networks and devices. "The value chain in enterprise networking is changing," he said. "And once voice is carried as an IP traffic stream on a data communications network, it becomes readily integrated into IT applications. As the dominant enterprise solutions vendors develop 'voice' as a feature in new releases, it is clear that previous architectures such as PBX, CTI and IVR face dead-ends."
B IS FOR BUSINESS PROCESSES
Gartner's Johnson said Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) will soon allow agent collaboration in new, exciting ways. We're all familiar with Word's ability to incorporate hotlinks. "How about," said Johnson, "if it harnessed a communications protocol like SIP, which you can click on to see who wrote and edited the documents, and also talk to them." Such 'voice-click' technology is not far off, and will stimulate new, more efficient ways of working seamlessly from within a document - or from within an application - in real-time.
"Companies are under tremendous pressure to improve the speed and efficiency of their business processes," Johnson said. "[Yet] little has been offered to improve processes that are human-communications-intensive."
C IS FOR CONSUMERS
Technology providers like Yahoo and Google are the new leaders and are driven by consumers, according to Gartner's Johnson. "A lot of enterprise technology is now driven by consumer trends and activities. That's a trend for the next two years," he said. What's more, enterprises will accept increasing use of consumer applications at work. "By 2011, 80 per cent of enterprise procurement will permit or condone the use of effective consumer IT solutions as employees' personal productivity tools - with 0.7 probability," Johnson said. Integrators and service providers with core IT skills will position themselves to take advantage of managed services opportunities that arise from new technologies, he said.
D IS FOR DATACENTRES
With business computing pushing more data over the network, storage is under ever more pressure, according to Riverbed regional director, Steve Dixon. "The important thing is how do you improve backup to the datacentre," he said. "Companies are trying to improve back-end storage issues and performance issues."
E IS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Green issues are in the vanguard of recent customer thinking. D-Link marketing director, Maurice Famularo, said channel players should watch out for its new SOHO and SMB Green Ethernet products complying with the European Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive. "[Going green] is a company direction," Famularo said. Vendors and customers alike in Australia will soon follow. People want and need to cut their power consumption too, so look out for switches that can run power according to the length of cable used, saving on energy.
F IS FOR FACEBOOK
According to Exinda Networks co-founder, Con Nikolouzakis, Facebook is a major contributor to wasted network resources. And take-up is unlikely to let up next year, meaning businesses need better ways to manage the use of recreational applications. "Some of the concerns include the use of third-party advertising engines to collect information, such as in a recent security hole where people logging off Facebook were still having info collected about them," Nikolouzakis said.
G IS FOR GOOGLE
Gartner's Johnson argued Google is one wildly popular consumer 'wild card', with its free email, search and document services. "The 'giveaway' mass marketing business model that was so successful during the dot.com era is creating inexpensive alternatives to formal enterprise IT solutions," he noted. Giveaways already include search for text, images and video; email, VoIP, storage, news, information, merchant payment, directories, location images and services.
"Google, Yahoo, eBay - and even an AOL/Time Warner or Apple/Disney in future - will be occupied delivering their single-function products in the near-term, but many mashups or blended solutions will launch during the next few years," he said.
"Strong cash flows and an enormous capital base allows Google to invest in IT infrastructure well in advance of its need for new business," Johnson added.