The networking year ahead

The year 1998 saw the beginning of the end for the two distinct worlds of datacom and telecom. In 1999, enterprise networking moves to a voice/data-blended place.

The industry is inundated with the buzz around network convergence — those future network infrastructures designed to support voice, data and eventually video. But expect to hear a lot more talk and see a plethora of network convergence products. Out with the old and in with the newest breed of routers, switches, PBXs and other communications equipment, which will incorporate voice and data transmission functions. The transition from two polarized markets blended into one begins in earnest this year.

The fallout of this evolution sees the end of two sets of vendors who either sold data gear or peddled voice equipment. Forget the “Big Four” of Cisco, 3Com, Bay and Cabletron. The real power in networking is about to be shifted to Cisco and the NELAS (Nortel, Ericsson, Lucent, Alcatel and Siemens) who’ll be looking to do it all. These are a new breed of companies who will build and supply the hardware behind these new and/or retrofitted existing networks with both voice and data transmission capability.

So what’s to become of the Big Four and how will convergence impact them? Let’s speculate.