Network Evolution

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Can you miss the emerging network technology investment boat?

New technologies like SDN and gigabit wireless are exciting, but how do you know when they’re mature enough for a network technology investment?

What does it mean to “miss the transition” when it comes to network technology investment? Can one wait too long or investigate too much before deciding to buy?

Rivka Gerwitz Little The answer is yes. When promising technologies emerge, it may not be time to invest immediately, but you should research them and keep them on your radar as you acquire related infrastructure or applications.

In this issue of The Network Evolution, we address two different emerging network technologies—software-defined networking (SDN) and 802.11ad gigabit wireless—that are both on the radar of CIOs and network managers, but are nowhere near mainstream uptake.

In the article, “CIOs Are Laying SDN Plans, But Slowly,” IDC analyst Brad Casemore says CIOs are waiting for SDN technology to mature and prove itself before investing. Yet as companies build hybrid clouds and enable automated provisioning, for example, they’ll need to keep SDN in mind as they are buying. In that scenario, they may want to buy OpenFlow-friendly switches or consider orchestration frameworks that can incorporate virtual network provisioning as it is implemented with SDN. One CIO quoted in the story suggests that companies should begin investigating now, but make room in their budgets for 2014.

Meanwhile, in an article about gigabit wireless, expert Craig Mathias explains how 802.11ad technology will offer 7 Gbps of throughput and notes frankly that these speeds are not yet necessary in typical enterprise networks. But that doesn’t mean that enterprises shouldn’t investigate and keep 802.11ad in mind as they consider expanding their 802.11n networks or even think about an 802.11ac investment.

Although 802.11ad is mostly a short-range technology and won’t replace 802.11n or 802.11ac, it does have the potential to supplement these networks for applications like video or large-scale BYOD connectivity. The Wi-Fi Alliance is set to release a final specification for 802.11ad in 2014 and that will mean devices that support the protocol will soon emerge, making 802.11ad a viable BYOD connectivity option over the next couple of years. Network managers should take this into consideration as they decide how to expand their current networks.

At times, emerging network technology can seem more sci-fi than investment reality. It sometimes offers capabilities that don’t seem necessary yet (as with 802.11ad). But doing basic research on emerging technologies enables network managers to purchase technology today that allows for an easier migration to a more proven technology tomorrow. It’s something to keep in mind.

Rivka Gewirtz Little is the executive editor for TechTarget’s Networking Media Group. She and the Network Media Group recently launched, a new site about software-defined networking and network programmability.

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This was last published in August 2013

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