I recently spoke with Michael Bower, enterprise sales engineer at Network Instruments, about the trends his company is seeing in the network-management realm. Here are his thoughts.
Virtualization Shifts to the Desktop
In a year where network teams are looking to save time and money managing users, extending virtualization out to the user desktop just makes sense. The increased use of mobile devices for both business and personal use also drives network teams to consider virtual desktops as an easy way to secure and manage access to company data and applications. Bower said, "In this conservative economy, we're not seeing any big wow factors, but we're seeing technology that's been out there a while getting more mature, including virtualization. Virtualization of the desktop is big: You have a limited number of servers, but there are so many laptops or notebooks! There's a definite cost benefit when companies allow users to bring their own computers (BYOC) rather than buying and maintaining a corporate asset."
Video over IP Comes of Age
A perfect storm is developing to push the adoption of video conferencing into the corporate mainstream. Larger teleconferencing video vendors including Cisco and Polycom are offering video conferencing packages at all price points. The rough economy is forcing companies to rethink the way employees collaborate and identify alternatives to air travel. Additionally, increases in network bandwidth capacity and comfort with VoIP now have network teams looking to video. Bower said, "I'm waiting for VoIP to lose the 'over IP' moniker and just be 'voice.' Video is coming online, and it's more and more easy to do with hi-def monitors. A lot of lower-level good solutions, at the $2,500 level, are increasing adoption. SOHO offices are using the technology for collocation; we're seeing video in conference rooms. Of course, there's always the question of latency and jitter. Data is very forgiving, but voice and video are not. That's the challenge."
Truly Unified Platforms
Over the past few years Unified Communications has evolved from a concept into a true communications management platform. Rather than a disparate group of programs, companies including Microsoft and Cisco, are offering single platforms incorporating everything from VoIP to video conferencing and instant messaging. Adoption of these platforms will increase as businesses continue to find cost-effective forms of collaboration. Bower said, "UC is just coming on strong with integration of VOIP, IM, and email, all packaged together."
Over the past two years WAN accelerators have grown at an amazing pace. In 2010, the adoption of WAN accelerators will continue to grow. The devices have an immediate ROI for many companies and are easy to implement. With increased server consolidation and more users working remotely, the need for acceleration will also increase. "Picture a garden hose," Bower said. "If I turn on the water and spray my car, I'm only getting so much PSI, but if I pump it into a pressure tank and crank up the PSI, I can get a lot more water through that same thickness of pipe. With WAN acceleration on both sides of a connection, you can achieve great acceleration."
Rebirth of Monitoring and Analysis
Rather than rip and replace, companies are looking to optimize what they have. IT organizations are increasingly realizing that monitoring is instrumental for maximizing existing infrastructure and network performance. Network teams are also looking to consolidate multiple monitoring tools into a single platform. Bower said, "Our general consciousness has gone back to root level. People aren't just throwing out slow servers and replacing network equipment when it slows down. They're looking at maximizing what they have. More people are looking at monitoring to see what's actually happening. As people are facing tight budgets, they want to figure out what's happening instead of tossing money at the problem."
Netbooks Break Into the Enterprise
Small, light and intelligent, netbooks provide a flexible and portable form factor perfectly-sized for mobile business or remote troubleshooting. Coupled with an attractive price point and an increasingly mobile workforce using more web-based applications, netbooks could be poised to be a realistic choice for business.
Operating Systems: A Third Way?
During the reign of Vista many organizations have grown weary of Windows. While they might be tempted by Mac, costs are always an issue. This might leave an opening for a third OS player. Several strong Linux variants have made moves on the server side, but lack marketing champions to migrate to the desktop. All of this coupled with rumors of the Google Chrome OS will make for an interesting new year and a strong chance of an emerging market-viable third OS.