Trends Driving Network Transformation

According to Manish Sablok, Head of Field Marketing, Alcatel Lucent Enterprise NWE region, 2016 is shaping up to be a highly disruptive year for networking.

Technologies such as the Internet of Things and Big Data have continued to transition from concept to reality, with others undergoing rapid development. These disruptors will bring with them increased demands for bandwidth, device prioritisation and integration, all of which must be addressed to ensure effective network operations continue.

I believe there will be a number of fundamental changes that will affect how networking is used by enterprises, public organisations and industries as a whole. Prominent among these will be the increasing shift from CAPEX to OPEX, as the ‘as-a-Service’ model continues to gain popularity; further development and adoption of the Smart City model that is beginning to realise benefits in early deployments worldwide; and greater adoption of Intelligent Fabric networking as the early promises of SDN deployment are delayed.

Intelligent Fabric

Every year we hear SDN is the next big thing in enterprise IT, but it is still an emerging technology. Software Defined Networking (SDN) makes networks adaptable to applications, providing automation at the network level that parallels the automation and flexibility at the server level. It bridges the gap between application control and network control elements, optimising application delivery and performance across the entire data centre network and the converged campus LAN.

The full promise of SDN is still off in the future, but intelligent, application fluent networks are in place today, dynamically adapting to the requirements of virtualised workloads and the virtual machine (VM) movement. Because they are application aware, QoS is automatically adjusted for application flows within the data centre and across the network.

Intelligent network fabrics are able to set up a new network in minutes, not days, bringing end-to-end programmability and self-healing capabilities – straight out of the box. Present availability and ease of deployment means intelligent fabric adoption will continue to grow and fill the capability gap left by delays in full SDN development. I think we are yet to see the full pace of widespread SDN development for enterprise networks.

Smart Cities

The network – the ubiquitous electronic mesh that connects devices with the resources they seek or deliver – is the heart of everything digital. It supports healthcare delivery, education, the hotel guest experience – and the list is growing. Let’s look at smart cities. Research by Gartner indicates that the 1.1 billion connected ‘things’ used by smart cities in 2015 will rise to 9.7 billion by 2020.

Business agility is limited by the current state of the network and the pace of digital change continues to move faster than the ability of business infrastructure to adapt, from the edge to the core. But cities are built on complex legacy IT systems that are not only unreliable, they are also very expensive to operate. They just weren’t designed to meet today’s needs, and a great deal of replacement and innovation needs to occur.

For the smart city, any level of disruption or delay could have serious implications for the effective maintenance and running of city infrastructure. Supporting the sheer amount of data requires a new approach to network management, through dynamic management and the prioritisation of vital data traffic over the network to establish a high QoS for high priority devices and services.

By adopting these measures, smart cities can begin to deliver benefits for the entire population, ranging from the richest to the very poorest by universally delivering services such as Wi-Fi and improved ‘connected city services’ to all citizens. We are already seeing this with developments in India and our own implementation in the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, providing the communications and networking backbone.

Refined Service Delivery

2015 saw many more services begin to shift from CAPEX to OPEX as the benefits were realised. Cloud based, on-demand services have proved to be scalable, secure and feature-rich, improving IT service delivery models.

And as organisations outsource more IT tasks and adopt more managed services, ‘on-demand’ networks become a very attractive part of a managed service model. Many organisations simply do not require the same capacity all year round – think summer holidays in educational environments and seasonal occupancy rates at hotels and resorts.

Some technology vendors now have sophisticated monitoring in place to enable them to measure service usage and offer consumption-based models to customers that are more cost effective alternatives to the traditional capital expenditure models – freeing IT investment and staff for more important projects.

On-demand network services will become established as one of the predominant infrastructure models of 2016.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine