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Networking pros vital to IT's future

Network admins will be even more important to IT as next-generation technologies take hold, according to a top analyst at Networking Decisions, but some attendees said these technologies are still a long way off.

ATLANTA -- During a keynote address at the Networking Decisions 2004 conference, an analyst with International Data Corp. said networking professionals will be at the center of the next big shift in information technology.

Lee Doyle, group vice president of network infrastructure with the Framingham, Mass.-based research firm, said since businesses are demanding more from their computing resources, networks -- and those that are responsible for them -- will be increasingly important in the years to come.

"Networks are critically important, and how you manage your network is important for your overall IT organization," Doyle said. "Networks touch every part of an IT organization."

Networks will change dramatically as businesses push for highly reliable, always available converged networks that offer application awareness. As a result, Doyle said, businesses will invest more in Layer 4-7 switches, 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches in the data center and GigE to the desktop.

VoIP: Productivity, not savings

During the next five to seven years, VoIP will be deployed in as many as 50% of all businesses. But Doyle said for now, VoIP will not make sense for every enterprise. Businesses should not view it as a cost-saving move, he said, but should instead look for the ways it can help businesses work more productively.

For example, Doyle said businesses with call centers can find great benefits to integrating voice with existing applications. Those enterprises with multiple sites can manage those sites from a single location.

But not everyone agreed. Atlanta-based Emory University is considering deploying an IP PBX with the hopes of saving money, said attendee Steve Bridges, a network engineer at Emory. User moves, adds and changes are expensive to execute with the existing phone system and could be performed more efficiently through a centralized VoIP system, he said.

Jim Doherty, a senior IT auditor with Rock Tenn Co., a Norcross, Ga.-based packaging manufacturer, said his firm is not considering VoIP because it is unlikely that it would help save money.

Another attendee, a senior technical consultant for a major telecommunications company, said the businesses she works with hope to save money by deploying voice.

"Getting the best bang for your buck is the biggest driver," she said.

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But Doyle warned that VoIP can have plenty of hidden expenses. "The network upgrades are often more expensive than the IP PBX," he said.

The future: VoWi-Fi

Wireless networking is also taking on a bigger role in more organizations. As both wireless and VoIP gain acceptance, both technologies will come together in voice over wireless LAN.

Many of these changes will require more of the network such as adding in power over Ethernet and quality of service to cater to convergence, he said.

Doyle said that businesses should plan to implement these next-generation networking technologies over five to 10 years, moving in stages as they are necessary.

Emory's Bridges, however, felt that timeline was generous. He said every network was already an on-demand network. "Your network is already expected to be there 100% of the time," he said. "I don't know any network that is up at 8:00 and down at 5:00."

Networking Decisions is owned and operated by TechTarget, which also publishes

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