Cameron Sturdevant

By eWEEK Labs  |  Posted 2002-11-18 Print this article Print


In the coming year, network managers will have far more choices about when and how to throttle network traffic.

Flirting with 10 Gigabit Ethernet technology and pushing traffic management capabilities from the core to the wiring closet will be the significant networking trends next year.

These will be closely followed by a burgeoning number of security products, most of which will work but many of which will fall by the wayside as they prove too cumbersome to manage and occasionally fail in what may prove to be some spectacular flameouts.

The 10 Gigabit Ethernet 802.3ae specification was finished in June, and the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance has conducted interoperability bake-offs throughout this year. Although the initial capital costs for 10 Gigabit Ethernet equipment are expected to be higher than Gigabit in the LAN, applications such as storage area networks using iSCSI could justify the higher costs.

Even so, interoperability among vendors should not be assumed, and we caution early adopters to be especially diligent when going over equipment specifications.

In the WAN world, the 802.17 working group is pushing forward efforts to make 10 Gigabit Ethernet interoperable with SONET (Synchronous Optical Network), the long-haul technology used to connect high-speed circuits. Because 10 Gigabit Ethernet provides just a hair more space than SONETs 9.9G-bps capacity OC-192, 10 Gigabit Ethernet will likely lower recurring long-haul costs, possibly late next year.

Throughout the past year, eWeek Labs has seen network equipment makers pushing quality-of-service and management capabilities that used to be found only in high-end switches into wiring closet equipment.

Ciscos Catalyst 3550 switch family is just one example.

Cisco has basically pushed Layer 3 and 4 traffic management capabilities into the switch line, thus dramatically extending network administrators abilities to regulate the who, when and how much of bandwidth allocation closer to the desktop. I predict this trend will only gain momentum next year.

IT managers will have greater control over access to the network, but with that control comes responsibility. Network and application staff will be drawn together because of the greater impact that network infrastructure devices will have on application performance.

Nearly gone are the days when simply increasing network capacity would be the best answer to solving slow application response. In the coming year, network managers will have far more choices about when and how to throttle network traffic.

The introduction of 10 Gigabit Ethernet will likely accelerate the convergence of data and voice applications, further underscoring the need for widespread traffic management.

One of the biggest ramifications I see as a result is an increased need for network planning for management and capacity. Fortunately, most of the companies that provide these products have survived the downturn while also resisting the urge to join the horde of "security" companies that emerged this year.

In fact, look for the algae bloom of security companies to die back in the middle to end of next year.

Of course, prudent IT managers must protect network infrastructure and applications, but now is the time to be choosy. Weve seen many new entrants into the security market-Reactivity Inc., for example-and even established companies change their spots, as in CacheFlow Inc. becoming Blue Coat Systems Inc. We believe these two companies have worthwhile offerings.

However, there are many more security products than real problems. Keep in mind that at the end of the day, IT in 2003 will be about efficiency and supporting business productivity, of which security is just one leg of the stool.


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