Is your network future-proof?
As the IT stack gradually shifts from physical to virtual to cloud, organizations must ask how this is impacting their network infrastructure and whether it is robust enough to sustain future technologies, said an analyst IDC Canada Ltd.

“The challenge is Canadian organizations only have on average a one-year time horizon for their IT planning. But these are trends that impact the network two to three years out,” said David Senf, research director for infrastructure solutions with the Toronto-based research firm.

Senf, speaking on Tuesday during a Webinar about the future of networking as it relates to the mid-market company, said network performance and security has always undergone significant impact as the IT landscape has changed. Devices such as smart phones are added, the technology stack gradually goes virtual, desktops move to the data centre. And, now infrastructure is moving to the cloud.

“The impact on the network is multiplication, rather than just addition,” said Senf.

Organizations must plan ahead for future changes by looking at technology as well as operations and culture, said Senf, who suggests setting a baseline for where the company is today and where it wants to be before determining the optimal network required.

Also on the Webinar, the director of managed IP Services with Toronto-based Allstream Inc., Mike LaPalme, pointed out that while applications are what drive the network, there is a move toward network convergence.

“The network stack is really coming together,” said LaPalme. That movement means mid-sized companies can, for the first time, take advantage of an affordable and scalable network, he added.

LaPalme said Layer 3 IP-VPN provides security features to mid-sized companies otherwise not affordable a decade ago.

LaPalme’s suggestion for planning a robust network for the future, is to ask which applications will be used on the network and which class of service is required to sustain them. “That’s not a question that midmarket companies have asked historically,” he said.

As for managed network services, LaPalme listed as benefits cost savings and the ability to allocate resources away from daily tasks to more strategic projects. But he also noted that organizations want a measure of control in addition to the usual performance reporting that services offer.

LaPalme said the manner in which an organization builds its network will determine whether that “cloud experience can happen.” While public clouds are about the internet, he said private clouds are becoming about IP-VPN.

But many organizations still approach the cloud in an ad hoc manner, cautions Senf. For the network, that may mean paying more than is necessary, not having the right tools in place, and lacking proper security.

That said, confidence in consumer apps such as Facebook and hosted e-mail services are driving a shift towards the cloud in organizations. Senf explained that increasing comfort with virtualization renders an understanding of abstracting software from hardware. Similarly, dialing up and moving workloads around the data centre makes elasticity a familiar term. And, disaster recovery makes the concept of cloud storage and recovery quite clear, said Senf.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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