Exploring the future direction of networks

2 Jun 2005

No matter how you look at it, the past always seems to be a simpler place. This truism can easily be applied to the state of IT networking today and what the future holds in store.

In the old world of networking — and we’re talking about 10 years ago — a networked computer was one that was connected by cable to a local printer and a few other computers for the purpose of sharing files and perhaps a database or two. Today, not only is the average worker connected to local and wide area networks and the internet, but networking takes into account mobile phones, voice and video communication, customer relationship management, instant messaging and collaboration.

In other words, companies that have networks also have issues surrounding the sheer number of software applications as well as the ever-present threat of security breaches and this equates to rising costs. Speaking at a press briefing on the future of networking, Michael Galvin, country manager for Cisco Systems Ireland, said the average network in a retail bank on any high street in the State today has about 80 software applications running at any one time. In the general business world this could be much higher if you take into account workers’ ability to download music, images and games.

This no doubt leads to huge IT governance issues for firms going forward. A survey last week by the Business Software Alliance and asset management software firm iQuate of typical Irish companies employing between 101 and 5,000 workers found that all of the networks had MP3 files on more than 20pc of machines, with an average of 200 MP3 music files on each of these machines.

The average number of MP3 files in a 100-employee organisation was 7,500. The survey found that movie/DVD rip files were discovered on six of the networks. It was also proved that MP3 downloads were taking place on work PCs during working hours in three companies that had website filtering in place and strong firewall rule sets. In seven out of 10 cases the worst offenders were among the IT support staff themselves as they had the ability to circumvent the security measures put in place for the majority of staff.

According to Galvin, the Irish networking market can be regarded as a fully converged market — a fusion of voice, video and data — which in turn is creating significant security headaches. “Instead of being simpler, the IT industry is getting more complex and as a result networking will have to be more intelligent to cope with everything that’s happening,” Galvin remarked. “The longer companies delay in resolving these issues the more likely the costs of resolving issues increases.”

Galvin said while the networks of today are built to be resilient, networks that will be deployed over the next three years in businesses will have to be intelligent as well. “We are aiming to create networks that will self-provide and optimise network performance by becoming more application aware, such as updating the various software applications automatically without the need for human intervention.”

Pictured at the Cisco Systems Ireland briefing on the future of networks were (from left): Ivan Duggan, regional sales manager, commercial and channels; Michael Galvin, general manager; and John Stone, chief technical officer

By John Kennedy