Networking outlook 2011: Network virtualization, wireless, security

Leading analysts share their predictions for top networking trends in 2011, including data center networks, wireless LANs, network security and network management.

With the new year upon us, SearchNetworking.com asked several leading analysts to share their 2011 predictions for the networking industry. Network virtualization and supporting server virtualization are common themes for the new year. Networking pros must also keep an eye on the explosion of Wi-Fi-enabled devices, the IPv6 compatibility of key network management tools, and a renewed network security focus on insider threats rather than perimeter protection.

Networking 2011: Data center networks

Enterprises will get serious about network virtualization in the data center, according to Lucinda

Image goes hereLucinda Borovick, IDC

 Borovick, vice president of data center networks research at IDC.  Today, the virtualized networking that takes place on virtual hosts is largely invisible to networking professionals, but that will change in 2011.

"We'll start to see the emergence of best practices," Borovick said. "Enterprises right now have kind of struggled to say, 'OK, this portion of my data center is highly virtualized, but it's kind of a black hole as far as the network is concerned.' In 2011 [networking pros] will move to the next step of virtualization. "

Cisco Systems' Nexus 1000V, the networking vendor's alternative to VMware's vSwitch software, has enjoyed plenty of attention as one possible solution to network virtualization challenges. This year we could see a couple of methods for adding network visibility and control to networking on virtual hosts with VN-tagging and Virtual Ethernet Port Aggregation (VEPA,) standardized by the IEEE, Borovick anticipates.

Enterprises will also make new investments in networks specifically earmarked for supporting both public and private clouds, Borovick said, projecting that companies will spend $1.4 billion this year on cloud networking.

Networking 2011: Wireless LANs

With final IEEE approval of 802.11n, Wi-Fi technology is finally powerful and stable enough to support the all-wireless enterprise. Last year, wireless LAN vendors began selling 802.11n products at such high volume that the vendors started to introduce low-cost 802.11n products with access points (APs) selling for as little as $500.

Image goes herePaul DeBeasi, Gartner

This year, 802.11n will become the dominant method of network access for many enterprises, according to Paul DeBeasi, research vice president for network and telecom for Gartner's IT1 practice.  Gone are the days when the all-wireless enterprise was dismissed as ridiculous.

As the wireless LAN becomes the dominant network access layer in many enterprises, the number of Wi-Fi devices accessing that network will explode in 2011, particularly as smartphones and tablets transition into essential workplace collaboration tools instead of being thought of as luxuries[s1] .

"Enterprises are beginning to report that the number of Wi-FI devices per human is greater than one," DeBeasi said. "In some cases, humans carry two or three active Wi-Fi devices. This trend is going to continue. It will create greater demand for the Wi-Fi network. It will also create more co-channel interference."

Both of the trends cited above will increase enterprise demand for spectrum management systems that are fully integrated into wireless LAN infrastructure, DeBeasi said. Cisco Systems, Motorola and Aruba Networks all have spectrum analysis systems integrated into their infrastructures today, and DeBeasi predicts that all wireless LAN vendors will offer access point-embedded spectrum management by the end of this year.

"By the end of 2011, every vendor will have a continuous monitoring solution," DeBeasi said.

Networking 2011: Network security

Forrester Research senior analyst John Kindervag hopes that 2011 is the year that network security professionals increase their focus on what insiders are doing and worry less about the perimeter.

"We're recommending that companies deploy tools for network analysis and visibility that provide

Image goes hereJohn Kindervag, Forrester Research

 metadata capture and analysis, packet capture and analysis, and flow analysis," Kindervag said. "We're advocating that companies create data acquisition networks that mirror all their network traffic into a single place."

Network security pros should be more aware of insider threats in 2011, thanks to highly publicized events like the WikiLeaks scandals of 2010. "WikiLeaks [has] given awareness to a problem which has existed for a long time that most executives have chosen to ignore,” Kindervag said."I hope we start to see people adopting a more data-centric view of security. Protect the data first. Do not be looking toward the edges of the network to stop something at the last minute."

For that reason, Kindervag said, "NAC must die." Network access control, he said, is focused on establishing trust with devices when enterprises should really be focused on establishing trust with individual users.

Enterprises will also completely rethink network virtualization security in 2011, because "right now people are deploying virtual machines and virtual hosts without thinking about the security implications. The more this happens, the more vulnerabilities are going to be introduced into our networks," Kindervag said.

Network virtualization security earned a little buzz toward the end of 2010, when Cisco introduced its Virtual Security Gateway and Juniper Networks acquired startup Altor Networks. Both of these moves took place ahead of high demand for actual network virtualization security solutions, suggesting that network and security vendors recognize that this could be a bigger issue in 2011.

Networking 2011: Network management

Network virtualization -- and cloud computing -- will also influence how enterprises make decisions with network management technologies in 2011, according to Jim Frey, research director for Enterprise Management Associates.

Image goes hereJim Frey, Enterprise Management Associates

"There's still some maturation that needs to happen with the way that organizations deal with the network aspect of virtualized environments," Frey said. "A lot of tools for managing virtualized environments came out in 2009, and a few of them matured and filled out in 2010. A lot of these tools that have been built for network management in the virtual environment will also now be helpful for network management in cloud services environments. "

Network management tools that can automate much of the networking changes that occur when a virtual machine migrates from one host server to another will be particularly important in the future, he said.

"There is going to be a lot of improvement in terms of automation for all aspects of network management," Frey said. "A lot of it has to do with changing configurations, but there's more to it than that. Adaptation of monitoring tools to these new, dynamic environments, whether it's virtualized computing or cloud service -- there's no way manual techniques will be able to keep up with the rate of change. So automation and intelligence needs to be applied more broadly to the network. It's going to become an absolute necessity in the coming year."

IPv6 will also start to influence how enterprises work with network management tools in 2011, Frey added.

"I liken IPv6 to being a stampede of turtles," he said. "It's something we've seen coming for a long time, but we felt like we had plenty of time to make changes and deal with it. Now with IPv4 address depletion, that's going to hit its tipping point. It won't really hit us hard [in 2011], but transition will begin in earnest. A lot of [network] management tools have made the move already [to IPv6], because of federal government regulations, so the good news is that most tools are ready. But they're not all ready. Each shop will have to look at their tools in test environments and do a shakedown to make sure they're really ready for this. It's kind of like Y2K. It changes the underlying architecture of data -- the way it's gathered and the way that it's stored and retrieved. Unless [the tool] has been fully implemented and tested [in IPv6], you may not get 100% functionally equivalence of what you had in IPv4."

Network management tools for video traffic might also become a hot topic in 2011, Frey said, if the prognostications of video traffic growth by vendors like Cisco are to be believed.

"I don't think we'll see a big explosion of [video traffic] in 2011, but it's definitely ramping up. There are not a lot of unique tools for managing video. What we don't have in the industry is a good standards-based video quality metric that management vendors can all use."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor.

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