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Editor's note: Switches got more powerful, Cisco had a change of leadership and data center interconnect fueled a new urgency among IT administrators eager to connect their data centers to cloud providers. Here, a recap of some of the stories that resonated in 2015.
2015 tech trends: Data center infrastructure
At the start of the year, a study of North American CIOs revealed they intend to increase spending on security, switching and wireless LANs.
In April, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise introduced a switch gateway for its high-density OmniSwitch, to improve data throughput between VXLAN and virtualized applications. Meanwhile, in May, Gartner's Magic Quadrant highlighted Arista and Cisco as the leading data center networking vendors. The previous data center networking Magic Quadrant, released in 2013, declined to identify any vendor as leading the category.
Arista launched new enterprise network automation tools in June, premiering a software version of its CloudVision switch management system, and building in features like network-wide rollback.
Other 2015 tech trends in data center networking encompassed the retirement of Cisco CEO John Chambers and the appointment of Chuck Robbins as his successor, and some high-profile mergers and partnerships, fueling fresh concerns and challenges for customers. Dell purchased EMC for $67 billion, massively enlarging its networking portfolio while Nokia proceeded to complete its previously announced acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent. Meanwhile, the Cisco-Ericsson partnership excited some but raised long-term worries about whether the deal would result in any tangible benefits. And Hewlett Packard split into two companies, with the newly named Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) focusing on enterprise networking.
2015 tech trends: Wireless LAN
Meru targeted the midmarket in February with the release of its cloud-based wireless LAN for SMBs. To reduce costs, Meru worked to eliminate on-premises controllers by combining hardware and management software.
Ruckus Wireless rolled out the first Wave 2 802.11ac access points for enterprises, to allow businesses to prepare their networks to support the higher-speed standard. Aruba and Cisco, among others, followed suit.
Hewlett Packard [Editor's note: prior to its split] jumped big time into the wireless market with its $2.7 billion acquisition of Aruba Networks. The move was seen as a bid by HP to compete more aggressively with Cisco in the race to win enterprise business.
Cisco released new switches supporting 2.5 GbE and 5 GbE to allow companies to upgrade to faster wireless speeds without having to replace existing cable.
2015 tech trends: Network security
Data security was at the top of most IT administrators' minds as the year began. Hacks against Sony, Target, Home Depot, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and JPMorgan Chase, among others, put millions of consumers' and workers' financial records at risk.
At the end of January, Brocade promoted router encryption with the release of its new MLXe security module. The in-router data encryption was designed to enhance performance and protect information traveling over the network.
Over the summer, Cisco acquired OpenDNS for $635 million to combat Internet of Things security risks.
A survey of 1,560 networking professionals commissioned by TechTarget found that security was the No. 1 networking priority and a key driver of 2015 tech trends; as a result, vendors began adding more security features and capabilities to their portfolios in a bid to supplement existing enterprise firewalls and other protective measures.
In October, Ixia introduced an IP address blocking appliance, as part of its threat intelligence offerings, to reduce the costs that its customers spend investigating security alerts. The ThreatArmor system relies on Ixia's Application and Threat Intelligence system to spot unused, malicious or hijacked IPs.
Network performance management and monitoring
ExtraHop boosted the capacity of its wire data analytics platform to 40 Gbps to reflect ever-faster network traffic. It also rolled out a new appliance that gives users both real-time and historical views of data traversing across their systems.
IBM and Juniper joined forces to offer joint network analytics. The two companies worked to combine their respective hardware and software system to extract business intelligence data from subscriber data passing over their networks. Juniper's MX Router Service Control Gateway, combined with analytics from IBM, enables enterprises to probe data generated by both mobile devices and PCs. Broadcom also fortified its analytics, allowing data center operators to monitor switch performance.
Startup Kwicr aimed to accelerate mobile performance over Wi-Fi and cellular networks with its cloud-based delivery service.
HPE beefed up its Network Node Manager software to include support for virtualized functions.
Look forward to more IaaS consolidation in 2016
Enterprise mobility trends in 2016
2016's data center predictions