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Vendors talk: Expert predictions

Cisco Australia and New Zealand director channel operations, Michael Lehmann 1. Business video is the new voice and will continue to drive significant growth 2. Energy efficiency for networking will become a significant driver of enterprise decisions 3. Understanding of the importance of networking as a compute platform will increase 4. Customers will increasingly demand networking architectural designs as a precursor to buying equipment 5. More than 50 per cent of all networking equipment will be sold with managed services attached by the end of FY11 6. Partners will see an increase in networking profitability through increasing sales

HP networking director, South Pacific, Darren Read Innovations in technology are continuing to grow in 2010, despite a shaky economy in 2009. However, to prepare for the future, businesses need to adopt solutions today that allow them to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable economy. Data centre convergence – the integration of networking, servers and storage – enables all resources to be shareable and expandable to meet new and changing application demands.

Enterprises will be looking for more choice when considering networking solutions. The combination of increasing expectations for a more responsive infrastructure to meet rapidly altering business needs, and the more challenging economic climate will drive fresh innovations. As a result, vendors will need to adopt a strong, business-focused approach to network design.

The following trends are what HP Networking believes will affect the enterprise in 2011:

  • Data Centre Convergence: Virtualisation has changed how companies approach different components of the data centre within their organisation. Companies will need to be able to match network capability with new or updated technologies created to maximise convergence. The future will see the true convergence of compute, storage and networking in the data centre. This convergence will fundamentally redefine how systems are constructed, operated and managed.

  • Desktop Virtualisation: Moving forward, desktop virtualisation will increase with virtual machines becoming the norm as the personal computing platform. A converged infrastructure will help easily expand virtualisation to the client side, ultimately providing improved manageability and security with tools to comply with regulations and business continuity in the event of disaster, data loss or workforce interruption. Business risk will go down and end-user productivity will go up.

  • Wireless: The convenience and utility of new mobile-based technologies is pushing the industry to become a wireless world. However, the world will never be able to go completely wireless, because of the need to move massive amounts of data and the fact that wireless communication consumes both space and power.

  • Network Intelligence: With the internet model, network intelligence is thought to be best positioned within the endpoints. However, the model is stressed by contradictory implementations of security and quality-of-service. The question arises of what network intelligence will look like in the future, and companies will need to determine if they want to sacrifice innovation from differentiated network services vs. a more secure network.

  • Internal Cloud: Instead of functioning in their traditional role, enterprise IT organisations will become the internal cloud provider to its users. This flexibility will allow users to move applications and services off to a provider’s network, internally or both, depending on what’s most cost effective. A handful of key enabling technologies will be required to support this seamless migration.

Riverbed managing director, Australia and New Zealand, Steve Dixon In the plumbing department of networking (routers, switches etc.) I think we will begin to see some significant changes to the default mode of "buy Cisco". With IBM and HP openly entering into competition with Cisco, customers are now beginning to have some real alternatives from equally large, credible organisations and after such an extended period of dominance, often marred by arrogance and bullying tactics, there is an appetite for change. It should also result in some substantial price dropping as the monopoly begins to crumble.

Cisco, of course, will come out fighting and we can expect to see a more direct sales model coming into play, which of course will have the effect of further upsetting an often disgruntled channel. Ultimately the consumers will benefit as more competition, better pricing and more responsible customer service provide improved value propositions.

Further up the stack, one of the key drivers for change will be the continued increase in mobility options. Improvements in 3G performance and the proliferation of "pad" type devices will see a growth spurt in "work-on-the-move, work-where-you-want" type behaviour and company policies and applications will adapt to accommodate that. The on-going push for increased performance and business continuity, improved service levels and security, increased volumes of data and throughput - yet reduced cost and support overhead - will continue to drive more intelligence in the networking and systems place. This will include improvements, greater standardisation and a wider adoption in application optimisation as well as improvements in application development to drive better behaviour over WAN links.

Bandwidth is a part of this. All Australian providers of network services – be those services NBN, wireless, cable or Ethernet-delivered - are promising to deliver increased bandwidth to their customers. There are, however, no such promises being made for reduction in latency (or the round trip time) for these services.

Cloud-based services, or centralisation of applications and information, only increases the distance between applications and users. So, in order to ensure users can access these services from anywhere and at any time, the impact of latency must be removed (or at least reduced). Which is where application acceleration – which does just that – comes in. Therefore, customers, network and cloud services providers will increasingly demand application acceleration as a standard part of their service.

Citrix director of product sales, Australia and New Zealand, Bede Hackney

WAN optimisation has been a growing technology for some time. In the course of the last decade the technology has transformed from simple bandwidth management, adding WAN acceleration to drive growth for early adopters. In recent years we’ve seen that trend garner far broader acceptance.

Citrix believes 2011 will be a key turning point for this market. As desktop virtualisation takes a significant foothold in customer IT strategies this will radically change the protocols that will be delivered across the wide area network. Traditional protocols that were previously the focus of WAN optimisation vendors, such as CIFS or MAPI, essentially become data centre only protocols when customers adopt desktop virtualisation. Traditional protocols will give way to desktop delivery protocols, such as ICA – making acceleration of desktop delivery protocols the main focus for WAN optimisation vendors next year and a key consideration for any customer evaluating a desktop virtualisation implementation.

Separately, as server virtualisation has been broadly deployed across enterprise data centres, many organisations are recognising one of the key benefits of being able to flexibly and dynamically move workloads and distribute them across the data centre. To date this flexibility on the server has been within the bounds of what is a relatively static networking infrastructure – however, 2011 will be the year that flexibility in the data centre extends to networking.

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This year, we saw the emergence of virtual appliances from many networking vendors and, in 2011, we will see architects leverage the flexibility of this new category of products in their data centre designs. This dynamic data centre design will also be the first step for many enterprises in unlocking their workloads from single locations to enable workload distribution across multiple data centres internally, as well as in moving towards infrastructure-as-a-service cloud-based offerings.

D-Link marketing director, Maurice Famularo 1. Storage Storage has always been an important technology area and, with increases in disk capacities and advances in networked storage technology and cloud storage, I think it will continue to grow in strength in 2011.

The trend to store more information and content on ever increasing hard disk volumes is nothing new. But whereas a few years ago we would have seen most of these drives directly attached to computers, now we are seeing them going into network storage units or in the cloud.

Just as important as the volume of information is the accessibility to digital media and this is true for both the home and the small to medium business market. Consumers and businesses are asking; can you access digital media whenever you want it, or from wherever you happen to be at the time? And is the information still there when something goes wrong? Hard drives are mechanical devices and they can still fail. You may have stored information on a network drive, but if it is not backed up properly then you may as well have stored data on a local drive. Sometimes, you only find out how good your backup is after it’s too late.

So there are a whole lot of value-adds around storage which are ultimately more important than just storage volumes. As a technology manufacturer, that means supporting networked and cloud storage technologies that provide the infrastructure to get data wherever it has to go, whether it’s across the network or the Internet. And for resellers, that means cutting through the complexities of storage, accessibility and backup issues to provide the right solutions for individual consumers and businesses. I think that is a huge growth area.

2. IPv6 With the number of Internet addresses constantly being whittled away, fewer than 5 per cent of IPv4 addresses in the world are now available and they reckon that by the middle of 2011 they will be all gone. That’s not surprising when you consider that IPv4 only supports a bit over 4 billion addresses, less than there are people on the planet. IPv6, the next version of the Internet protocol, on the other hand, supports trillions of trillions of trillions of addresses so, theoretically, we should never run out of IP addresses ever again. Because of this, I think that this area will be something that is going to start to gain some momentum in 2011.

From a D-Link perspective, we have been making router products that have been IPv6 compatible for quite some time now. More and more customers have been asking about our support for IPv6 and seeing it as a significant value add. That is good for our resellers, not only to help them win more business, but also in being seen as trusted advisors about future networking technologies.

3. Green IT Despite falling off the main agenda in terms of customer decision-making and news reporting in 2010, I think Green IT is going to make some type of resurrection next year.

At D-Link we have always made sure our products have complied with Green standards. All our power supplies meet industry energy efficiency standards. In many key areas our products are way ahead of minimum standards, particularly with the Green technology built into so many of our switches and routers. At the same time, we have been making sure that our products are produced with the effective removal of hazardous materials. And our initiatives around the proper disposal and recycling of equipment all continue to happen.

At the moment, we are not winning business deals because of these green initiatives; we are winning deals because we produce good solutions that people need. Green technology is not the number one decision item within the decision making process. People are not saying, “if it is not Green, we are not buying it.” But Green technology is still seen as a bonus and I see it moving up the decision-making agenda in 2011 to become more and more important.

Jabra managing director, Australia and New Zealand, Mike Powrie The developments in networking technology are moving the global business community forward, primarily through the emergence and uptake of flexible technologies such as unified communications (UC). Until now, technologies which provide the widespread benefits that UC offers, have mainly been a benefit to bigger organisations.

In 2011 and beyond, we anticipate an increased adoption of UC across small to mid-size businesses, as the technologies and tools become more mainstream and businesses recognise the true benefits it offers. This will be even more of a reality when the National Broadband Network (NBN) or its equivalent becomes available.

Bigger businesses that started trialling UC over the past couple of years will mature in their use of UC and it will become more broadly deployed, expanding the business benefits across the spectrum. With the promise of game-changing national infrastructure on the agenda, we expect increasing numbers of Australian employees will begin to push for a more flexible working environment. This will encourage businesses to seek and implement solutions which enable greater workforce flexibility and mobility, such as headset and telephony solutions. Both unified communications and UC-compatible headset solutions give employees the freedom to work from home, the office, and on the road more seamlessly using softphones and improved data speeds (e.g. Telstra 3.5G).

As well as improving mobility and connectivity, the implementation of a national infrastructure that improves unified communications will result in a more sustainable workforce. More employees working from home will result in less traffic and less travel, both locally and interstate. This has benefits for work/life balance as well as positives for the environment.

Headsets will become a much more critical part of the UC solution with wideband support and noise cancelling as mandatory features, especially for workers moving from one environment to another as part of their work day. Headsets will need to keep pace with these changes with longer talk times before recharge, improved audio conferencing devices, state of the art noise cancelling, smallest form factor, and increased talk time to ensure employees are able to work and stay connected anywhere in Australia.

To match the needs of the SMEs entering the UC space, lower cost, multi-featured UC headsets will become available in 2011 that are more suited to smaller businesses. In the longer term, the NBN will drive networking improvements and UC adoption in Australia. It promises faster connections, more network stability and improved download speeds. Combine this with faster mobile data speeds and seamless access across a variety of devices, and Australian employees will be transformed into a more mobile, connected, flexible workforce.