The network industry could be entering yet another new stage of innovation and growth, fueled by a flood of new demands and an increasingly likely new tech refresh cycle driven by increasing network infrastructure automation and control.
At the core of this new cycle is a flood of new devices being attached to the network, and at an unprecedented pace. Connectivity, or the ability for a network to recognize what is attached, becomes critical as technology users accumulate IP addresses like children building Pokémon decks.
Let’s put this in historical perspective, as 1999 marked the beginning of high growth in network connectivity. 2003 began a hyper growth period that shows little sign of slowing, at least if you follow the smart phone and netbook headlines.
In 1999 there were less than 100 million computers attached to the Internet. Today there are about 700 million. With smart phones and netbooks proliferating, this trend is likely to continue, further stressing network connectivity. Many of these new devices are portable, increasing rates of endpoint mobility unfathomable in the 1990s. As mentioned before Cisco predicts 1 Trillion Net Connected Devices by 2013.
Increasing complexity on the outside of the network will drive enterprises to control/automate more aspects of network infrastructure, which will ultimately reduce the operating expense of the network and fuel a new tech refresh cycle. Think network automation and control, as enterprises race to automate specialized, high risk processes. CIOs will ultimately gain as much visibility into the state of their IT infrastructure as CFOs have into the state of their business.
A VP cloud for a larger enterprise told me that his networking team had more than 30 steps to simply provision a server to the network. There were close to a dozen highly-skilled network pros involved in the process. He discovered via audit that the cost to move a server was more than half the cost of buying a new one.
Those types of manual labor-driven environments made up of specialists will soon be replaced by smaller teams of generalists who will manage larger networks, make fewer mistakes and drive new strategic value to new business models. Like the phone companies decades ago, network connectivity is about to be automated.
As the network industry wraps up 2010 expect to see more network automation announcements than ever. Their customers are ready and waiting.