As 2005 winds down and 2006 comes into view, several of this year's nascent trends will predictably grow in significance over the next twelve months. Here are some examples in network management:
One-size-doesn't-fit-all in optimization in 2006. Without a doubt, more IT departments will implement network optimization tools to boost performance. These purchases will drive continued consolidation among optimization vendors (think F5's purchase of Swan Labs, Juniper's acquisition of Peribit and Citrix's purchase of NetScaler), while more start-ups, like 2005 stars Silverpeak and Crescendo Networks, come out of stealth mode. Vendors will be introducing new technology with big claims to boost performance. By and large, these claims will be factual, but until IT departments have a clear idea about why applications aren't performing as they should, they won't have a clue about which is the most suitable solution for their problem. IT departments with a firm grasp of best practices in baselining and comparing optimization solutions will have an advantage over their competitors that don't.
Also, patience with VoIP failures runs out in 2006. VoIP has matured beyond the incubation stage as enterprises eagerly implement this technology. Yet, we all know that VoIP is a real-time application, and as a result, has different implementation and performance management issues than data networks. VoIP will force network managers to tackle real-time application needs in 2006 to help ensure the success of VoIP. One point of innovation likely is an increase in handset intelligence. Network managers will have to know when they're getting poor performance and adapt strategies accordingly.
The channel steps up its consultative/expert role this year as well. Currently, small-to-medium-sized businesses are often overlooked by networking vendors looking to make multi-million, multiple unit sales. Yet, this middle market is growing in both size and sales potential. Large enterprises attract and keep the experts because they can afford to pay for expertise, so there's a dearth of knowledge in the middle market. As a result, the middle market will seek to supplement its technical expertise through its channel partners. The channel's willingness to fill this gap is changing the face of technology sales in the U.S. Interestingly, this is already a common practice in Europe. Watch for US channel partners to take on more of an expert role in 2006 - and reap larger profits in the process.
Dwight Barker, director of product management at Network Physics, has been involved in nearly all aspects of network management (configuration/provisioning systems, fault management, performance management, security and billing) across most networking technologies. Dwight has held product management roles at Netscreen, Cisco Systems, and start-up Neon Software, prior to joining Network Physics.