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Applications, convergence to boost network spending

Network spending will increase next year for many respondents to a recent survey. Applications, remote offices and bandwidth will fuel the increase.

For many readers, 2008 will bring a host of networking challenges as administrators seek to support a surge in usage while adding applications and adopting voice/data convergence.

A survey, which polled more than 1,200 readers -- including network operations staff, IT managers, network engineers, consultants and executives -- found that many networks will receive increased budgets as administrators tune them to take on more tasks with higher reliability.

Just over half of the respondents said their 2008 budget will increase over this year's, with 21.28% seeing an increase of more than 10% and another 20.50% of respondents seeing their budgets increase 5% to 10%.

A fifth of respondents said their department budgets would remain the same, and 7.26% of respondents actually said their networking budgets would decrease. The remainder said they did not know whether they would spend more or less money next year on networking gear and infrastructure.

For many of those respondents with larger budgets, more money comes with more problems. More than three quarters of respondents expect bandwidth utilization to increase, with 26.81% expecting an increase of 10% to 25% in usage, and 17.01% of respondents expecting a usage increase of more than 25%.

The causes of the uptick in network usage are as varied as the companies using them, but a few major themes emerged. The following are some of the drivers for network investments in the coming year:

  • Additional applications, 11.46%
  • Growth in remote/branch offices, 11.07%
  • Growth in workforce, 10.83%
  • Disaster recovery requirements, 10.21%
  • Data center construction or upgrades, 8.65%
  • Voice/data convergence, 8.34%

Many respondents wrote that in order to support all that activity, their routing and switching equipment budgets would also increase in some capacity, whether for switches, wireless hardware or enterprise-grade routers.

Nearly 36% of respondents indicated that these purchases were to support increased application traffic, and another 22.66% said that their purchases were to handle remote or branch office traffic. The biggest driver, however, was simply expanding to support more users, which was the motivation to buy for 39.38% of users.

Survey respondent Kirk Beideman said his company, Technologue USA, had just finished upgrading to support some of these needs. Beideman said Technologue, which does database management for the automotive industry, had seen a jump in both internal and external network usage.

"We've developed applications for our clients to use to access the data that we manage, so that has made the pipe a little bit bigger," he said. Because his company was recently acquired, Beideman's budget was increased, and he said he would steer the extra funds toward virtualization and security, which he said was "paramount" to Technologue's clients.

Beideman is not alone in his focus. Just under 29% of respondents wrote that protecting critical data was driving their security investments. Another roughly 14% were driven by concern about external threats or a desire to integrate security into the network infrastructure.

About 12% of respondents noted that their companies invested to protect their network infrastructure, authenticate user access or fall in line with compliance guidelines.

If the fast pace of network security is overwhelming you, take heart in not being alone: 1.44% of respondents answered in some form or another that they had no idea what was driving their security investments.

Jason Hannibal, the technology coordinator at St. Alban School in Wildwood, Mo., said security was not too much of a threat because user access was tightly controlled, particularly for students. St. Alban's big expenditure is likely to be a new file server at the end of the year.

"They're becoming inadequate for what we need," he said, particularly as his network continued to expand to include more users. For both Hannibal and Beideman, however, there were some decidedly lower-tech, yet perennial, challenges for 2008: documenting what was on the network.

Hannibal said one of his big goals for the next year was to assess everything on the network and identify and prioritize problem areas for a more organized long-term plan of attack.

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