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One less box: Cloud-managed wireless eases network management

IT staffing remains flat as demands placed on networking pros grow. Cloud-managed wireless shows less can be more when IT is asked to do more with less.

We always hear from networking pros that they're being asked to do more with less. And while it can be difficult to objectively quantify the more, the less is readily apparent.

Three out of four networking professionals say their IT departments have maintained or reduced their staffing levels this year, according to TechTarget's 2014 Annual Salary and Careers Survey. Of the 173 networking pros TechTarget surveyed, 20% are in IT departments under a hiring freeze, and 11% have shrunken their staff by attrition. Only 17% are looking to make new hires.

The other side of the story is repeated so often that it's practically a cliché, which doesn't make it any less true: Networks continue to get bigger, faster and more sophisticated. Moreover, the number and complexity of devices and applications they now support keeps multiplying.

Will Reid, chief technology officer at the Pulaski County Special School District, which comprises 38 schools in and around Little Rock, Ark., is one of those IT pros being asked to do more -- a lot more -- with roughly the same resources. The district is planning to put an iPad in the hands of every student and teacher, totaling 15,000 iPads over the next two years.

"We've got a whole lot more technology in the classroom today than we ever did, but it's not as if you can hire a whole new set of team members," Reid told me.

As we explore in our cover story for this issue of Network Evolution, that counterbalance between ambitious technology initiatives and flat staffing levels is why Reid and his team, like so many other networking pros, are retiring their on-premises wireless network management platform and migrating to a cloud-based version of it. Jimmy Hogg, the district's director of technical operations, will retain full control over his wireless access points and all traffic, but he will have one less server to maintain, upgrade, back up and secure by opting to subscribe to Aerohive's software-as-a-service version of HiveManager -- freeing him up to focus on optimizing the network to support the oncoming influx of iPads.

And while wireless network management is probably the most accepted form of cloud-based networking today, it's not for everyone. Find out whether cloud-managed wireless is the right approach for you in "Cloud-managed wireless: Why network engineers love it."

Also in this issue, we take a look at three ways white-box switching is bringing the concept of network programmability to life ("White-box switching: Three paths to programmable networks"). We also ask why unified communications (UC) federation -- a catch-all term for tools and services that integrate otherwise disparate UC applications -- has failed to take off, despite strong demand ("UC federation: Last hope or lost cause for multi-vendor UC?").

And, as always, don't miss this edition of "The Subnet," in which one network engineer shares all the horrible ways your voice upgrade could go wrong ("Enterprise voice upgrades can break more than they fix").

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This was last published in December 2014

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