Networking converges on success

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This article appeared in the Issue 181, 19 September 2005 issue of CRN magazine.

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Networking converges on success
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The Australian enterprise networking market has evolved massively from a technological and a business standpoint over the past five years. And in this evolution, two developments have served to fundamentally change the local landscape, bringing with them a wealth of opportunities in both products and service offerings.

Data and voice technologies are converging on one network and resultant security issues that have arisen around this convergence. The convergence phenomenon has gone along with increased adoption of wireless networks, greater uptake of broadband internet services and a need for greater bandwidth.

Meanwhile, the advent of services such as Cisco’s application-oriented networking has changed the dynamic between networking vendors, distributors and resellers with their customers.

Network reliability and security is more critical for business than ever before. Organisations rely on their networks to give them a competitive advantage, particularly as more organisations move down a path of voice and data convergence.

The move towards convergence has also seen another interesting dynamic emerge where new competitors into the networking space have sprouted. Companies that in the past only dealt with voice are now dealing with data, and vice versa. And some telco carriers that traditionally have not been in the networking game are looking at infi ltrating voice services, right through to the enterprise desktop.

The technology used to power traditional LANs and WANs and wireless networks has also undergone a technical overhaul in the past fi ve years. According to Nortel Networks chief architect for convergence Mick Regan, fi ve years ago the bandwidth that existed for wireless was 5 to 10Kb/s, the nomadic bandwidth was dialup at 30 to 56Kb/s or 128K ISDN and the wireline LAN was typically shared 10BaseT at about 1Mb/s.

"Today, wireless technology is delivering 100Kb/s through the current cellular network, nomadic bandwidth is about 1 to 2Mb/s for homes on DSL or cable modems, DSL connected 802.11 hot-spots or hotel rooms, and the typical wireline LAN is a 100BaseT with gig risers delivering 10Mb/s," Regan says.

"If we project forward, in another fi ve years, 3G/4G wireless will deliver 1Mb/s, VDSL, WiMax, and new cable technologies will up the nomadic access to 10Mb/s-plus and Gigabit desktops will enable speeds of up to 100Mb/s in the LAN," Regan added.

Also, wireline solutions have got more dependent on higher bandwidth staying available for applications such as CADCAM, imaging, HDTV conferencing -- reducing compression complexity to minimise latency -- and 3D displays.

Firewall Systems sales and marketing director Nick Verykios says the local market is lot more sophisticated than it was fi ve years ago, with end users reducing the number of trusted advisers and vendors they are working with.

"Technology decisions are highly considered for advanced and emerging technologies such as security, wireless, VoIP, mobility and web application infrastructure. The three quote rule may still exist as a formality, but the deal is fundamentally done by then.

"This is because users are investing in initiatives beyond technology and technology is purely an enabler of what is really being purchased," Verykios says.

Five years ago, major network upgrades were too expensive for many organisations. Upgrading a legacy system to an IP telephony system has since proven to be far more cost-efficient. The wireless networking market has also made great  leaps, with the advent of wireless WAN or Wi-Fi and Unwired’s offering -- often known as Wireless Broadband or Fixed Wireless Access, a proprietary pre-802.16 or pre-WiMax offering.

Today, Gigabit Ethernet, as opposed to just fast Ethernet, is becoming pervasive, given the need for speed required to run internet fi lm or TV. This has led to PC vendors building Gigabit LAN on the motorboard, with no extra card needed to slot into the PC or laptop. Gigabit Ethernet adoption has remained at the low end, although wireless network uptake, allowing workers more mobility through using Wi-Fi hot spots or wireless access points through a wireless LAN infrastructure, is quickly becoming a commoditised market.

According to Cisco Systems consulting systems engineer Adam Radford, there has also been a major shift in focus in network technologies from one of pure speed to one of network control over the past five years, where applications such as security features are now embedded in network devices.

"Quality of service [QoS] has now become so essential to customers that network downtime is just not an option," Radford says.

IP revolution

Certainly, at the enterprise level the adoption of IP technology, with its possibilities for converged voice, video and data networks, represents an upheaval in the local market, and one ripe for the channel to take advantage of, Radford says. "For resellers, much technology now being deployed, wireless [or] voice, has a heritage and background in data networking. There has been a distinct transition of skill sets, moving from building data infrastructure to an IP telephony play," Radford says.

According to Frost & Sullivan analyst Foad Fadaghi, IP technology has made accessible a range of businesses technologies that may have only been affordable for large companies in the past. "It has also allowed for cost-effective integration of systems and been the primer for data and voice convergence on the network," he says.

As an indication of just how pervasive the technology is becoming, Frost & Sullivan says IP PBX units now signifi cantly outsell traditional PBXs.

Networking vendor NetStar Australia marketing director Oliver Descoeudres believes the impact of IP telephony on the networking landscape will become even more pervasive, driving a more homogeneous vendor environment to ensure end-to-end quality of service and greater acceptance of the need for network security and management.

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