The needs of the network are changing in 2009 as enterprises centralize their data centers, rely on fluid storage sources and depend more and more on wireless LANs instead of wired Ethernet. At this year’s Catalyst show in San Diego, I spoke with senior Burton Group analyst David Passmore, to grasp what trends will directly impact enterprise technology and what IT professionals need to prepare for in both the short and long term. Here is what Passmore had to say:
1. As the networking track chair of Burton Group’s Catalyst conference 2009, what major themes will you be addressing this year?
David Passmore: From a networking standpoint, there were four areas we thought would be of most interest for our enterprise IT clients:
- Wireless is one because there’s an increased use of mobile phones for both data as well as for voice. We’re also seeing enterprises using wireless LANs (WLANs) often as a substitute for wired Ethernet.
- The second focus is on wide area networking and what’s happening in the telecom industry, with particular emphasis on what enterprises can do to save money. If you’re a large enterprise, your phone bill, for example, is the second largest recurring expense after salaries. Obviously, if there’s any way for large enterprises to save on their telecom costs, then that’s going to be of interest.
- A third area that we wanted to focus on is unified communications, which essentially is an outgrowth of phone systems — where most large enterprises over the last couple of years have been migrating over to VoIP and IP telephony. Now what they’re doing is trying to figure out how to combine these systems with instant messaging and presence and email, and other forms of communication.
- The fourth area is data center networking: most enterprises have in recent years, consolidated their datacenters: So they’ve gone from a large number of smaller data centers to a small number of larger datacenters. In doing so, now they’re beginning to implement server virtualization. They have these large storage arrays. And essentially, they need a new network that can support the IT requirements in a consolidated datacenter. So we’ll be talking about — for example, how to have your network work well with virtualized servers, and with storage area networks based on Ethernet, and trying to reduce cabling costs — a lot of the issues that affect networks in large enterprise datacenters.
2. How have these themes changed since Catalyst two or three years ago?
Passmore: Each of them has their own specific changes. A big emphasis this year given the economic environment is saving money or cost avoidance. So a lot of the discussion is around initiatives that provide a near-term economic payback.
3. Are the trends this year something we can apply to today, or something to think about for the future?
Passmore: Actually, it’s a combination of both. One of the things we always try to do at Burton is to avoid just telling people what’s worked well in the past. We tell large enterprises what they need to pay attention to or what needs to be on their radar screens as they go forward — such as wireless. The fact that, increasingly, communication is migrating from wired infrastructures to wireless infrastructures, and that includes, not just the use of WLANs within the enterprise, but more use of cellular, data and voice networking.
At some point this might actually make the [networking professional's] jobs easier, because they might find that more and more of their enterprise’s communications is actually flowing over a wireless network operator['s] network. There will be less of a need for enterprises to have to run their own circuits to manage their own networks for connectivity between or within their sites.
Right now, it’s more of a burden because enterprises have to worry about both wired and wireless communications, and people will look at that as doubling their expenses.
In the near term it, it may be doubling the expense, especially because enterprises are interested in how they can get those to work together. For example, [users] have a single phone number that works for both your desk phone and your cell phone; [they] have a single voice-mail box that works for both their desk phone and their cellular phone.
So that’s the near-term goal, but longer term, we expect that a lot of the enterprise equipment will go away in favor of people making use of mobile devices and using the cellular network operator services.
To learn more about these trends, Passmore speaks particularly about how to overcome the challenges storage and server virtualization puts on networking pros, in this Q&A.