Opinion

2012: The year of the campus LAN

Khaled Kamel, territory channel manager, MENA at Brocade

2012 is the year of campus network and it will continue witness rising investments over the next five to ten years.

Trends such as Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD), mobility, virtualised desktop infrastructure (VDI) and unified communications are now being realised across many organisations. However, years of adding layers of complexity with every new feature, combined with the rising demand for more virtualised environments that enable cloud and support increasing mobility, has impacted the financial and technical performance of the campus LAN.

To date customers looking to invest in their campus networks have had to compromise between cost and complexity: cheap but basic campus technology, or expensive but highly ‘complex to manage’ solutions. Organisations under pressure to get the maximum value and optimal performance from their networks today and in the future need round-the-clock reliability and performance, with minimal manual intervention and maintenance.

This year is shaping up to be the year of that most challenging client of all: the end-user. With increased use of mobile platforms, cloud services that provide access to a whole world of applications, data storage solutions that sit well outside the corporate firewall and demand for new applications at speeds the IT department just can’t deliver, users have much more power than before to determine how, when and what IT services and solutions they use. And that’s just the ones they use for company business!

IT service providers, value added resellers (VARs) and systems integrators (SI) are increasingly being asked to help resolves the challenges this can create, and the focus has been on making the data centre more flexible, scalable and resilient so that deployment of services and applications can be facilitated quickly and smoothly. Ensuring that IT staff in end-user organisations can deploy business driven changes, while guaranteeing uptime, access, and resilience in the network to cope with increased data and greater fluctuations in demand at shorter notice, has been key. And this will continue, with ongoing adoption of virtualisation and Ethernet fabrics.

The problem is that much of the technology currently in vogue – cloud, unified communication and collaboration tools, video conferencing, mobile platforms and so on – are all about the user experience. And the user rarely, if ever sits in the data centre.

So if the campus network isn’t ‘up to spec’, the user is likely to find the same kind of problems that the IT department has spent time and money on fixing at the data centre end. Loss of connection or inability to connect, poor quality of audio or visual media, lost data, updates not updated – all those things guaranteed to drive both users and IT helpdesk up against the wall. C-level management gets increasingly frustrated at investing in things that ‘don’t work’. IT staff gets frustrated that ‘it does work’ but the network outside the data centre can’t cope and doesn’t have the same built-in intelligence, so it is a nightmare to try and manage. And this issue will reach crunch point during this year.

It’s time to redefine the economics of the campus LAN and recognise its importance in delivering cloud, VoIP, video, applications and the use of more mobile platforms. And, to recognise fully the growing opportunity for the significant new and incremental sales that campus networks provide. Because customers, as always, will be looking for IT service providers, VARs and SIs who can help them make wise investments and the right deployments – and campus is where they will be looking next.

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