Wireless by default, wired by exception – Part 3

It’s impossible to avoid wireless when talking network infrastructure, as Heather Wright discovers.

So what technologies should we be watching out for in the network infrastructure arena?

In Munch’s Gartner report, he lists OpenFlow, SDN, 802.11n, .11b and .11g WLAN and application delivery controllers (ADCs), as items to be acted on within 12 months through pilots and building out coverage or making the technology part of upgrade planning.

Load balances he notes, should also be acted on in 12 months – but to refresh whenever possible with advanced ADCs, as load balancers are deemed ‘end of life’.

Meanwhile, Atlas Gentech’s Fair says gigabit passive optical networks, made up of products including optical line terminals, are beginning to gain traction locally.

GPon replaces active switching gear which uses electricity, with passive gear. Optical splitter enable a single optical fibre to be split to serve however many are required. The technology substantially reduces power and cooling requirements for the network, Fair says.

“It’s the architecture of Fibre to the Home, scaled down to really small size, and it’s ideal for places like aged care homes, apartments.”

Fair says education will be key to the growth of the technology in New Zealand, with many under the misconception that it’s completely new and bleeding edge – with all the associated risks associated being an early adopter of new technology.

He says Atlas Gentech, which handles both Huawei and 3M GPon products will be ramping up its education offerings for resellers, as it begins to more aggressively push the offerings.

Fair says end users are also looking to future proof their networks and provide for future fibre and LTE offerings. With that in mind, routers with modular interface cards, are proving popular, allowing users to swap out a card for an upgrade path using the same CPE.

Of data centres and SDN

Greg Barnes, A10 Networks ANZ managing director, says he’s seeing a continued movement towards the data centre within network infrastructure.

“The access layer is the only point on a network that will remain onsite, but even at this point the network’s ‘intelligence’ will be controlled within the data centre.

“From a hardware perspective, the access layer has become heavily commoditised, with the value now lying within the data centre. This value comprises intelligent routing, quality of service, application delivery and management and monitoring, to name a few.”

On the security front, Barnes says he’s seeing a further drive inwards from an overall network and security policy perspective.

“Organisations who continue to manage security policy via bespoke devices and policies will lag behind. Such organisations will maintain their existing large IT operations staff, while those embracing technologies such as SDN will leverage the data centre for networking and security.

“Wireless technologies will follow suit, in fact they have preceded fixed networks through the use of wireless controllers, which were introduced over a decade ago.

“At that point, the access layer, or access points, became unintelligent and commoditised devices. The successful wireless vendors had intelligent controllers and management platforms.

“This continues to be the case today and we are seeing a similar trend with fixed networks… aka SDN.”

And speaking of SDN, software defined networking is the most talked about technology in the network arena at the moment.

Gartner says the approach ‘represents a potential transformation in how enterprises will design, build, operate and procure network hardware and software’.

He says as SDN matures, a ‘significant boost’ in network innovation may occur as network features and applications become decoupled from the underlying network hardware.

“New markets will emerge, especially for SDN applications that have the potential to completely change enterprises’ physical network deployment and network operations.

“New competitive vendor environments must also evolve to support the evolving enterprise network landscape and financial models.”

However, Munch warns that despite the hype, the technology is still in its infancy.“… However, SDN’s promise of increased network agility has created strong interest from both enterprises and service providers.

As a result, we expect SDN to rapidly mature to the next phase.” Luke Frost, LevelOne ANZ marketing manager, adds power over Ethernet (PoE) to the list of trends being seen in network infrastructure.

“PoE is everywhere at the moment, as more companies look at scalable options and saving on installation costs. There are some innovative technologies emerging for extending PoE networks over fibre, which is really adding a new element to large-scale outdoor networks.

“For example, it is possible to extend a PoE surveillance network up to 2km from the source using power/ fibre hybrid cable.”

Beyond technology

But it isn’t just about the technology, Fair says. He advocates resellers thinking about ‘owning’ entire buildings – from the point of entry to the device on the desk or in the end users’ hands – rather than just supplying the Wi-Fi or the routers and switches.

But more than that, he says the biggest stride forward will come when resellers stop focusing so much on technical specifications, and focus more on what those technical specifications enable the customer to do with their network.

“Often we’re selling a box, sticking it in and walking away. But there is more money to be had if you can become the subject matter expert and have that conversation with customers about what the network will enable them to do, and be seen as more than just the guy who brings the box to the premises.

“You have to differentiate yourself from others, because if you’re only differentiating on price, that erodes margins very quickly.”

For Part 1 click here and for Part 2 click here

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