Greg Enright: Having a go at some 2003 predictions

It’s time for a few fearless networking forecasts for the year ahead:

Voice over IP will grow, but not like a weed: As detailed in this issue’s feature, VoIP can offer many enterprises a host of improvements over their existing voice infrastructures, such as easier portability and lower long-distance costs. For these reasons, VoIP vendors will turn a tidy profit on their gear. But let’s not forget that a large number of potential customers also just installed revamped systems a couple of years ago to ensure their readiness for the Y2K “crisis.” These systems will be humming along just fine for the next few years, rendering even the thought of a switch to VoIP as financially ludicrous. Look for this factor and lingering skepticism about VoIP to stunt its growth in ’03.

Wireless LANs will fly: Wireless local area networks just make too much damn sense for enterprises of all shapes and sizes for the technology not to enjoy a healthy growth spurt this year. Part of the WLAN appeal is the fact that they offer something completely novel: real untethered mobility throughout the workplace. Unlike the case of VoIP, this is a pure addition of convenience; nothing has to be replaced. That makes them an easier sell. And with high-profile customers such as hospitals and universities having their success stories splashed across media outlets, expect the word on WLANs to spread like wildfire throughout the industry.

Your network might apply to MENSA: Okay, maybe they won’t get that brainy, but make no mistake: intelligent devices are proliferating and, like wireless LANs, they make an awful lot of sense. When it comes time to replace an aging router or switch, the new one will probably come with a lot more smarts than the old one. What’s happening here is not dissimilar to what has been transpiring in the automotive world for the last decade: try buying a car these days that isn’t run by a multitude of computers.

SMS will stumble in the enterprise: Don’t believe the hype you might hear from Canada’s top wireless players in regards to short messaging services in the corporate world. This technology is purely a pubescent play, gobbled up by teenagers but of little use to the enterprise, save for being a neat gadget for the tech-happy CxO. You’ll keep hearing that it has a viable place in your space, though: after all, it doesn’t cost wireless providers much to tack on corporate spiels to the consumer ones their already making.

Start cross-training your career: As IP and the converged network become more of a reality this year, employers will increasingly seek net pros who are proficient on both the voice and data sides. Don’t be left in the cold: if possible, take some courses in previously uncharted territory. Your career will thank you for it.