Taking Networking to the Bottom Line

CeBIT reveals a new trend in technologies: Real-world tools built for efficiency.

IT manufacturers have taken a break from dazzling promises of revolutionary new gear in favor of Spartan, yet practical, real-world technologies.

The trend was evident at the CeBIT trade show here last week as scores of companies announced improvements to such products as networking and storage and management offerings that help enterprises integrate assets and eke more efficiency out of existing investments.

3Com Corp. upgraded its NBX Networked telephones last week to support the IEEE P802.af draft standard and emphasized that the phones are compatible with already installed POE (power-over-Ethernet) equipment. Existing NBX phones can be made compatible with the draft standard by adding a small converter power module to the units, said officials from the Santa Clara, Calif., company.

3Com also showed off a new POE switch, built to give network administrators better device detection abilities and central management, as well as improved network availability. The SuperStack 3 Switch 4400 PWR is also P802.af-compliant, so businesses can deploy it alongside other compliant equipment.

Storage area networking also took a share of the CeBIT spotlight, as vendors sought to encourage new uses of the traditionally static networking medium. Cisco Systems Inc., of San Jose, Calif., rolled out product enhancements to enable enterprises to use storage area networks more efficiently.

Meanwhile, adding an element of flexibility to the health care industrys storage usage, IBM and Siemens AGs Medical Solutions division, in Munich, Germany, unveiled a storage-on-demand service tailored to hospitals and clinics. The notion behind IBMs e-business-on-demand effort is to allow enterprises to buy IT the way they buy electricity—paying only for what they use.

An increase in the use of MRIs, X-rays and other high- resolution digital imaging has produced expanding medical files that must be stored for long periods of time. The growing volume of data requires a high storage capacity, but hospitals cannot always afford the initial investment for it. With storage on demand, hospitals and clinics pay only for the storage they use.

With a similar philosophy, Hewlett-Packard Co. updated its automated metering technology that measures the processing power used by a CPU or server. The "pay per use" service allows an enterprise to pay only for actual usage on a monthly basis, and the usage data is automatically collected, encrypted and sent to the Palo Alto, Calif., company for billing.

HPs latest metering technology reads the use of each CPU, which can help an enterprise better respond to changes in power demand. Like IBM, HP is developing a series of on-demand offerings to save enterprises from paying for resources they do not need.

Data traffic management companies also displayed a range of updated tools to enable more efficient traffic usage and reduce networking costs. Extreme Networks Inc., also of Santa Clara, incorporated new features into its traffic management service for enterprise campus networks. The features allow advanced rate shaping so that a network manager can set bandwidth thresholds to better control incoming and outgoing traffic.

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