Five Networking Trends for 2012

By Julie Ritzer Ross — December 23, 2011

Network technology continues to evolve, and so, too, do opportunities for VARs.
“Between the cloud, virtualization, and more and more wireless devices out there, there are plenty of avenues to follow,” states Domenic Gianfrancesco, director, network solutions, Avnet Technology Solutions (www.dts.avnet.com). “And it’s not only on the tech side; it’s on the market side—healthcare, government, retail, technology, and energy are all [on the rise].”

Here are five trends to watch in 2012:
Customers clamor for cloud services. SMBs are rapidly embracing cloud computing in a move to not only reduce costs, but enable enhanced business agility. According to AMI Partners (www.ami-partners.com), total cloud-related technology spending by SMBs exceeded $52 billion worldwide in 2009, representing 6 percent of total global SMB ICT investments. However, this figure will exceed $95 billion, or about 11 percent of worldwide cloud-related spending, by 2014, Deepinder Sahni, AMI’s senior vice president, global sizing and segmentation, said in a statement.

But while SMBs clearly see the benefits of the cloud—public, private, or hybrid—most have neither the human resources nor the deep pockets necessary to support a migration on their own. This is opening network-related doors for VARs and MSPs to provide cloud brokerage and cloud aggregation services, observes Alex Osipov, chief technology officer, OS33 (www.os33.com).

OS33 recently launched OS33 Cloud Drive, a cloud brokerage technology that permits VARs and MSPs to create unified file systems for their end-users by bringing together storage from different private and public cloud technologies. The solution permits fully automated provisioning of Amazon S3, Windows NTFS, DFS, and SharePoint 2010 storage and access to file system capabilities from any computer, device, hosted, or local apps via Web DAV with Single Sign On.

For its part, Synnex (www.synnex.com) is touting the CloudSolv platform, powered by Microsoft Azure, as a new tool for provisioning, billing, and managing disparate cloud services as well as selling and marketing them. CCB, a solution provider in Racine, Wis., intends to leverage the platform to meet end-user demand for a “comprehensive stack” of hosted and managed cloud services, reports Patrick Booth, executive vice president.

IBM (www.ibm.com) also has begun to play more aggressively on the cloud side of the channel. A solution called SmartCloud Monitoring affords channel players additional visibility into the performance of their clients’ virtual and physical environments, including network resources.

Fabric technology gains ground. While virtualization technology offers a myriad of advantages, it also poses challenges where data center networks are concerned because of increases in both the number of virtual machines (VMs) per physical server and VM-to-VM traffic in the cloud. High-traffic data centers therefore require robust, flexible, automated networks to support virtualization, cloud computing, and diverse endpoints. At the same time, storage and LAN convergence is, across all verticals, boosting the need for more predictable, high-performance network architectures.

“All of this has led to the development and implementation of fabric technology that paves the way for high-speed, low latency, interconnectivity along with mesh connectivity as an alternative to a tree-type network topology, says John Black, president, Catalyst Telecom (www.catalysttelecom.com).  “In simplest terms, it almost creates one big virtual switch from a million network touchpoints. The mesh connectivity makes it easier and faster to roll out applications, which is important in high-compute environments like healthcare, research facilities and financial institutions.”

Black adds that fabric technology—now available from such vendors as Avaya
(www.avaya.com), Extreme Networks (www.extremenetworks.com) and Juniper Networks (www.juniper.net)—also helps to enhance the scaleability of cloud-based network solutions.

BYOD is spiking. The consumerization of IT—often referred to as the “bring your own device” or BYOD movement, now encompasses employees’ use of their own smartphones and other devices for work purposes, as well as individuals’ use of personal devices to access networks in retail stores, on college campuses, and the like. And it brings with it a challenge for end-users in all verticals.

“On the one hand, there needs to be more flexibility in how access to the network is granted,” explains Kamal Anand, senior vice president, product management, Meru Networks (www.merunetworks.com). “However, a large portion of the existing wireless LAN infrastructure makes the provisioning of network access for those devices difficult and less than secure—often with no way to control network access and assign policy from a centralized location.” Anand says this will become an even greater concern going forward, citing as a rationale research from Aberdeen Group (www.aberdeengroup.com) that pegs the number of Wi-Fi devices accessing the network by 2014 at a staggering 1.9 billion.

Meru’s newly updated Menu System Director 5 virtual wireless operating system, which comes standard in new Meru controllers and is offered as a free update to existing Meru customers with service contracts, allows for centralized control and network access provisioning. It is the first product update executed by the vendor to harness the technology incorporated into its portfolio following its September 2011 acquisition of Identify Networks, whose platform is now known as Meru’s Identity Manager. The latter has an optional feature called Smart Connect, which automates the setup and configuration of mobile devices seeking network access with one-click configuration for 802.1x environments via a wizard-based setup.

Aruba Networks (www.arubanetworks.com) has also jumped on this bandwagon. For example, its 802.11n Wi-Fi solutions encompass an ICSA-certified firewall to prevent public access to proprietary networks and adaptive coverage management tools to enable uninterrupted operation no matter the number of individuals who are simultaneously connected to a network in a single location. Per-user firewall policy enforcement allows quality-of-service, bandwidth limits, and time-of-day and local restrictions based on the relationship between the device user and the “owner” of the network.
Manish Rai, Aruba’s director of retail solutions, notes that although technology of this type proves valuable in all markets that are experiencing the BYOD boom, VARs can anticipate especially high demand in the K–12 and secondary education markets. “By our estimates, there has been a 60 percent year-over-year growth in the number of wireless devices being brought to college and university campuses, so the need for BYOD control becomes ever-greater,” Rai asserts. “The increasing popularity of e-learning is only contributing to that need.”

For its part, Kaseya (www.kaseya.com) has introduced the Kaseya Mobile Device Management module that handles audit, back-up, e-mail configuration and security tracking of devices in the BYOD category. The Kaseya Mobile Device Management 1.0 module supports Apple iPhone, iPad and all Android smartphones and tablets. It is sold as a standalone application that can also be integrated with other applications in the vendor’s framework, in either perpetual or subscription licensing on a per-seat basis.

Security steps up.  Mike Johnson, president of Dublin, Ohio-based VAR Cerdant (www.cerdant.com) points to a growing trend towards the use of multi-faceted, layered network security solutions. Technology that enables us to manage network traffic by application and proactively address threats constitutes a key example.

Vince Massey, senior director, North American channels, SonicWALL (www.sonicwall.com), corroborates Johnson’s comments, adding that “as there is more movement toward virtualization and into the cloud, the importance of, for instance, unified threat management firewalls that” combine gateway content filtering, anti-spam, anti-virus, anti-spyware, intrusion prevention, and application intelligence grows greater.

Meanwhile, as the prevalence of wireless networks increases, so, too, does the need for dynamic  threat protection technology for WLAN, not just wireless, environments, purports Dan Klimke, global product marketing manager, Fluke Networks (www.flukenetworks.com). The company recently launched AirMagnet Enterprise, Version 9.0, a wireless intrusion prevention system for managing and securing corporate WLAN deployments. It allows organizations to dynamically update and defend the corporate network when new threats emerge. Klimke claims it is unlike first-generation wireless security offerings in that it does not require users to schedule downtime to upgrade the firmware of the entire WLAN network in order to obtain protection updates.

Emerging in this space as well are solutions that meld security with data backup and recovery. For instance, Datto (www.dattobackup.com) has partnered with StorageCraft Technology Corp. (www.storagecraft.com) on a combination of Datto’s SIRIS backup and data recovery solution and StorageCraft’s ShadowProtect security solution. “End-users are moving away from ‘pieces-and-parts’ to more bundled solutions for BDR and security for the purposes of streamlining their network administration,” says Austin McChord, Datto’s CEO.

In general, says Dan Woodward, vice president, U.S. Marketing, Trend Micro (www.trendmicro.com) the financial, healthcare and public sectors present the greatest wealth of network security product and service opportunities to the channel. “The journey that these verticals are on includes potholes and alternative paths—also called regulation and compliance, and specifically related to the protection of personal data,” Woodward asserts. “Additionally, although cost savings are important to all vertical markets there is generally more scrutiny in these verticals as well.”

Telepresence solutions scale down for SMBs. “Democratization” of network solutions, wherein technology can be cost-effectively and efficiently implemented not only by Tier 1 players, but by SMBs, is becoming a priority not only where the cloud and BYOD are concerned, but in other areas, sources say. Telepresence tops the list, according to OJ Winge, senior vice president and general manager, TelePresence Technology Group, Cisco (www.cisco.com).

The vendor is focusing on expanding its Cisco TelePresence video line, with a primary goal of enhancing SMB access to its TelePresence product suite. Introduced in late October was Cisco TelePresence Callway, a hosted service that is part of the Cisco Collaboration Cloud. SMBs can purchase or lease through the channel select multipurpose and personal videoconferencing endpoints and connect those endpoints to Cisco TelePresence Callway. The concept here is to reduce the complexity and costs that have traditionally impeded videoconferencing adoption by SMBs, Winge notes.

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