Venturing forward with 10 predictions

It’s time to turn our cracked glass on ’03.

— Call it what you will – self-healing, autonomic or utility computing – automation will be all the talk. Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. have come out with platforms, and Cisco Systems Inc. has devices that manage themselves. This will be the year that long-term plans take shape.

— Web services standards will continue on a fast track to maturation, but companies will continue to restrict most projects to behind the firewall, and Web services integration between companies will remain a bleeding-edge adventure.

— Server consolidation continues as users scramble to economize by putting applications on more powerful machines. Blades will take off as a means of consolidating management, but Intel’s Itanium is still a gamble.

— We’ll hear much more about business impact management, the holistic idea of managing the network for application performance instead of managing the pieces – networks, systems, servers applications and databases.

— The arrival of combo 802.11 wireless Ethernet interface cards that support 802.11a (54M bit/sec) and 802.11b (11M bit/sec) spur adoption of 802.11a in the enterprise, but 802.11b remains the hot-spot technology of choice. Cometa Networks, the AT&T/IBM/Intel effort to build a national public Wi-Fi network, struggles as it tries to figure out how to make money.

— Voice-over-IP vendors trumpet the benefits of Session Initiation Protocol, which is music to the ears of customers holding off on VoIP investments because they don’t want to commit to VoIP today, only to have to upgrade to SIP down the road.

— PC-based servers continue their ascendancy, with power and features that rival high-end enterprise boxes. What’s more, high-end features such as failover continue to trickle down to lower-end boxes. Fat PCs outfitted with Linux continue to be a nice migration path for Sun Sparc customers.

— The Federal Communications Commission loosens telecom regulations, the industry recovers a bit and it starts to invest more, but WorldCom can’t go it alone and is acquired by one of the Bells.

— On the security front, vendors emphasize effort to integrate features once found in multiple products into multifunction boxes or core network gear.

— True 10G bit/sec Ethernet switches arrive, but it’s still early days, and the equipment is too expensive to make much of an effect.

– Network World editorial management