Major changes emerging in enterprise networking

A major change is occurring in enterprise networks. This change in the enterprise network’s architecture will ...

From the August, 2012 Issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine

The “Post-PC Cloud-computing era” will dramatically alter the structured cabling systems needed to support new architectures.

By Frank Murawski, FTM Consulting

A major change is occurring in enterprise networks. This change in the enterprise network’s architecture will, in turn, drastically change the structured cabling systems needed to support the new networking architecture. Two newer technologies—wireless and cloud computing—are causing this change. We refer to the new period we are entering as the “Post-PC Cloud-computing era.”

I have been involved in the information technology (IT) market for nearly 50 years, with the last 25 years focusing in on the structured cabling systems market. Over this period I have witnessed many changes, but none such as this, which will change the enterprise network to the extent that all network providers must rethink how they will conduct their business in the future. I believe these two new technologies will have more of an impact on the enterprise network than the emergence of the Internet or the introduction of PCs did.

Post-PC, Cloud-computing era

The most surprising development with these newer technologies is enterprises’ rapid acceptance of them, which is turning out to be much sooner than initially anticipated. Wireless mobile devices have been around for some time, but until recently they did not support Gigabit/second speeds required in most enterprise networks. Bring your own device (BYOD) is rapidly being deployed at many enterprise sites. Employees who want to bring their own personal mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets to access the enterprise network, are being forced on IT departments. These IT departments now are implementing the security and management controls needed to allow these devices onto the enterprise network. Cloud computing services provide a compelling business case for rapid acceptance. These services provide usage-based rates that are much more economical than deploying and maintaining these same services by IT departments. The emergence of cloud computing services by technological giants such as IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Amazon and Google, among others, lends credence to cloud computing services.

Converging technologies

These two technologies originated from totally different points, and now converge on the enterprise network. Wireless mobile devices started with cell phones providing wireless voice services. They have evolved into smartphones that are ideal for supporting Internet and email access. Voice is now a secondary consideration for many new smartphones. Tablets, such as Apple’s iPad, are the optimum net book.

Cloud computing started by providing backup storage for the enterprise’s data centers. Now they provide not only storage backup, but also computing resources, application software support and network infrastructure support. In essence, it moves the entire core network, including the data center, out into the cloud. All that remains in the enterprise network are wireless access points, supporting the mobile devices connecting to a router or gateway to the cloud computing service provider.

iPad a game changer

I consider the iPad a game changer that will have a significant impact on PCs used in enterprise networks. With more than 20 million units shipped and with more than 200,000 apps, the iPad essentially has become the de facto device for data access. But it’s other features that make the iPad a game changer. Two years ago Apple opened up its operating systems for application development, resulting in the large number of apps being developed for this device. Another factor was Apple’s iTunes online store providing a readily available vehicle for retail sales of the apps. Until recently, most of the Apple iPad apps have been directed at the consumer market. Now there are many new business apps being developed, including support of Microsoft’s popular Office suite. In fact, Microsoft is planning to offer its next Windows operating system, later this year, to support both PCs and wireless devices.

These two new technologies, mobile computing and cloud computing, will not cause a total network upgrade immediately, due to the hefty investment in the current network. Rather, it will be a phased approach in using both of these technologies. Existing PCs will still be used, but wireless mobile devices will increasingly be considered in network upgrades or additions. We are moving from a location-based, PC environment to a person-based, wireless environment.

The impact of these two technologies is projected to reduce the SCS market by $1.7 billion cumulative over the next five years. These two technologies will have differing effects on the different parts of the structured cabling system. One will impact the copper-cabling segment negatively, while the other will impact the fiber-cabling segment positively. The net effect is a reduction in the size and growth of the structured cabling systems market starting this year and continuing to accelerate over the next five years.::

Frank Murawski is president of FTM Consulting Inc. ( FTM’s most recent report, “The Post-PC Cloud-Computing Era Structured Cabling Systems Market Analysis and Forecast,” includes detail on the themes discussed in this article.

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