The Midvale, Utah-based IT research and advisory firm, which Thursday issued its annual predictions for the year, says if current trends continue, the evolution of network technologies, products, services and standards will certainly be a testing ground for network administrators.
"The rate of change in the networking and telecom industry is arguably now greater than ever," said Burton research director David Passmore during his keynote to Catalyst Conference attendees in San Francisco. "Lots of enterprises will have to re-architect their networks to accommodate these trends such as IP telephony, wireless LANs and Internet security issues."
The company's "Vision 2003" report instead points to better times as new developments in network security, IP telephony, mobile and wireless networking, storage area networks, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), and new virtual private networks are causing a shift in vendor and investor focus to enterprises.
Passmore says the following trends will really drive network infrastructure:
Security: Firewall products are being augmented with hardware acceleration, deeper packet inspection to close the "port 80 hole," and the ability to open ports dynamically in response to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or other applications requiring more than static port assignments. Intrusion detection systems that passively monitor networks are morphing into in-line intrusion protection systems. And security products will become more tightly integrated into a common system with centralized policy management.
Wireless and Mobility: Rather than viewing wireless local area network (WLAN) hotspots as a threat to third-generation (3G) cellular systems, mobile operators now view these as complementary technologies that will eventually work together to permit seamless roaming. WLAN technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate with the advent of higher-performance 802.11a and 802.11g standards, steerable beam antennas, mesh networking, improved management and security, and wireless LAN switching.
IP Telephony: IP-based phone systems are coming; it's only a matter of time before they become mainstream. IP private branch exchanges (PBXs) will migrate from today's proprietary signaling protocols to Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), while providing features comparable to current PBXs, improved system availability, unified communications, a wealth of new third-party applications, integration with mobile/cellular phones, and inline power over Ethernet. SAN/NAS: Storage area networks (SANs) and network-attached storage (NAS) are gaining traction as organizations require additional remote access to shared storage devices. The biggest trend is the use of iSCSI (Internet Small Computer Systems Interface), which is based on commodity Ethernet and IP networking technology, as an alternative to Fibre Channel. Other developments are storage networking systems tailored to mid-sized data centers, and combined SAN/NAS products.
Site-to-Site Networking: Carriers are being forced to combine their separate Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM)/frame relay, private IP, public IP, and voice networks onto a common background based on IP and MPLS. MPLS in particular provides the core transport for a variety of new VPN services as well as legacy ATM and frame relay services. But alternative VPN approaches based on virtual routing and/or encrypted tunneling techniques are expected to coexist with MPLS.
"Combine all of these changes with an unstable networking and telecommunications industry that's trying to shake off the effects of the telecom bubble while simultaneously attempting to adapt to the disruptive effects of IP networking... and it's clear that the next few years will be exciting ones for enterprise network managers," Passmore said.