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The best laid plans

NetworkInfrastructureFrom BYOD, to virtualisation, to the advent of the Internet of Things, there is a heavier demand on networks now than ever before. Users are more demanding and network solutions must be faster and more agile.

End-users will expect connectivity wherever they are, and they will insist that connection be constant and fast. These changes will inevitably lead to an adaptation in network infrastructure strategies. CIOs need to look at their infrastructure strategies for the coming year with new technologies in mind.

The last few years have seen vast improvements in mobility technology which have positively impacted network infrastructure. “Recent research has shown that 20 billion connected devices will be in existence in the near future, and that mobile data utilisation has already surpassed desktop data figures – thus putting immense pressure on IT to deliver fast, user-friendly and innovated services and applications with different business communication levels,” explains Bassem Al Hajj Hassan, Service Assurance Solutions Practice Manager, CA Technologies.

Though accused of being buzz-words, disruptive technologies like mobility, BYOD and cloud, as well as the rising surge of Big Data will continue to have massive effects on network infrastructure, according to Zeeshan Hadi, Territory Manager, UAE, Aruba Networks. “Mobility, cloud and BYOD will continue to grow even more next year, which will only further increase the heavy demand for bandwidth. Two end-user driven trends that are sure to gain traction in 2015 are IoT and wearable tech. These will bring with them the need for fast and reliable connectivity and storage anytime, anywhere.”

While organisations and businesses stand to benefit in both efficiency and cost-effectiveness from new trends in technology, poor prior planning and shoddy strategies can mean costly setbacks. Mobility solutions and cloud computing specifically mean a heavier demand on network infrastructure, and CIOs going into 2015 need to prepare for a strain on their systems.

“Technology trends such as Big Data, cloud and pervasive mobility are transforming the way we live and work, and having a dramatic impact on businesses and consumers,” explains Yarob Sakhnini, Regional Director, Brocade, “The benefits from these trends are varied and wide ranging, but they all have a common element underpinning them; the data centre.”

Data centres need to be set to take on a wave of new information. Data points will come from the Internet of Things, M2M communications and an increasing reliance on mobile technology. This is not limited to increasing capacity of data centres, but also strengthening security and data resilience in these centres.

Storage is not the only concern for network infrastructure professionals when it comes to Big Data. Whether the centre is equipped to handle the influx of data is only part of the puzzle. What to do with that data ends up becoming a pain point both in terms of what is done and how the data is analysed. “The biggest issue with Big Data is not so much availability, but how to mine that data effectively. So network solutions that are able to monitor and understand that data and do something comprehensive with it that the average user or enterprise or government can understand will be much sought after,” says Glen Ogden, Regional Sales Director, Middle East, A10 Networks.

Mobility trends will also dramatically effect network infrastructure strategies in the coming year. End-users expect more from their mobility solution, and are rarely seen without multiple devices. BYOD strives to give users the freedom to choose their device while using it for business.
Beyond employee networks, however, those at the helm of network infrastructures in industries such as hospitality and healthcare are doubly charged. Their clients often come in with many devices, and demand to use them just as they would in their own homes.

“With mobility, you have a lot more end-points that are demanding network resource and bandwidth. That stretches the network, not only from a bandwidth and security perspective, but also from the point of view of management of these end-points,” explains Cherif Sleiman, General Manager, Middle East, Infoblox.

This has, and will continue to, present some challenges for network administrators and IT security professionals alike. “Today, people expect to use both personal and business apps on the same device,” explains Anu Bhatnagar, NettResults Middle East Public Relations, Palo Alto Networks, “Whether it is a personally owned device or a corporate device, there are going to be a mix of non-business apps installed on it as well. As a result, the concern over how to protect data on mobile devices become far more complex, as bad actors cover a gamut of privacy and security behaviours,” he says.

Changes in network infrastructure will also mean shifts in the overall role of the CIO. The industry has already seen a shift in the CIO’s position in most businesses. In the past, IT professionals have only been tasked with managing and implementing technology. Now, CIOs must function as more of a leader in businesses as well as technology. “Today’s CIO faces challenges, but also promises from innovative technology now widely available. Modern technology has led to greater efficiency, lowering expenditure and potentially reducing the number of hours it takes to staff these highly technical installations. IT leaders must be at the helm of the technology infrastructures they control,” says Adrian Pickering, VP Middle East and Africa, Juniper Networks.

The Middle East in particular is bound to experience some growing pains when it comes to network infrastructure. Almost every industry silo in the region is growing, especially in the GCC region. With that growth will come a higher demand on network infrastructures across industries, and more recently, across borders.

“In the Middle East, providing connectivity to remote workers and branch offices within the region is something that organisations have managed to address. However, as the now begin to expand their footprint overseas, supporting employees and offices across international borders is drastically driving up operational expenses,” points out Taj ElKhayat, Managing Director, Middle East, Turkey, North, West and Central Africa, Riverbed Technology.

The coming year may be full of changes in the realm of network infrastructure, but those changes lie in certainty. There will be an increase demand on networks due to mobility trends and data trends as well as other disruptive technologies. All IT professionals can do is prepare for this demand and be ready to meet the needs of a more connected population.

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