As enterprises build out their digital strategies, IT infrastructure is rapidly evolving to keep up. Throughout all this change, though, the network remains vital. In fact, the network is becoming more critical than ever as connectivity demands skyrocket with mobile workforces, the rise of the internet of things, and the proliferation of cloud applications.
To that end, companies are ramping up their networking infrastructure, according to the Interop ITX and InformationWeek 2018 State of Infrastructure study. The survey, which polled 150 IT leaders and practitioners from a range of industries and company sizes, found that organizations are focused on adding bandwidth, investigating ways to modernize their networks with software, and expanding their wireless networking capabilities.
However, their overriding priority is network security: 59% of those polled cited it as one of their top three priorities for network investments for the coming 12 months. The result isn’t too surprising given all the high-profile breaches in the news, including the massive Equifax breach that so far has affected an estimated 145.5 million US consumers. After all, a secure, reliable network is essential to digital business.
Continue reading to find out the top networking trends in the enterprise for the upcoming year. For the full survey results, download the complete report.
Fifty-five percent of IT pros surveyed say they expect their organization will spend more on networking, including wireless and wide area networking over the next year. That includes 21% who estimate they’ll spend 5% to 10% more on networking. Thirty-eight percent of those polled expect their networking budgets will remain flat.
By far the biggest motivator for investment in networking technology is to improve security, which gained a whopping 60% of responses among those naming their top three networking challenges. So it’s no surprise that by far the leading investment priority for the coming 12 months is network security. With the increasing sophistication of cybercriminals and as cloud and virtualization transform IT infrastructure, organizations are stepping up their network security strategies, often moving beyond traditional perimeter firewalls and access controls.
After security, reducing costs came in as the next top challenge driving networking investments, cited by 31% of survey respondents. Improving network utilization and efficiency was cited as a challenge by 26%.
The need for increased bandwidth clearly continues: Survey participants ranked high-speed Ethernet second after security as a top networking investment priority for the next 12 months. Networks are under pressure as they carry more and more traffic. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, IP networks in the US will carry 2.6 exabytes per day in 2021, up from 1 exabyte per day in 2016. In that same time period, increased adoption of advanced video in the enterprise will cause business IP traffic to grow by a factor of three, Cisco predicts.
SDN: Strong interest, little action
The topic of software-defined networking proved an interesting one for this survey. Although software-defined networking (SDN)/network functions virtualization (NFV) earned only 11% of responses as a top three priority, 20% say they are investigating SDN, 8% are evaluating SDN vendors and products, 5% are planning to implement SDN in a lab or limited trial, 4% have deployed SDN in a lab or trial, and 6% have deployed SDN in a production environment. And 18% say they are intrigued, but not actively researching.
While SDN has gained significant traction in the service provider market, it’s garnered more interest than adoption in the enterprise, according to Gartner.
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Sticking with proprietary networking gear
White-box switches have been popular among web-scale companies like Facebook, which led the charge for open networking, but seem to be having trouble gaining traction in the enterprise. In fact, 63% of survey respondents said they have no plans to buy white-box switches and 51% don’t plan on implementing an open-source network operating system. Still, the concept of separating networking software from the underlying hardware has its attractions: 34% said they were interested in an open-source NOS for lower costs while 22% said they would like to avoid vendor lock-in.
WAN bandwidth is poised for strong growth, as 69% say demand for WAN bandwidth is expected to increase either significantly (20%) or somewhat (49%). According to a State of the WAN report released earlier this year by Aryaka Networks, a number of factors are putting strain on WAN links, including bandwidth intensive applications such as big data, cloud, IoT, and video.
Software-defined WAN technology has become a popular approach to dealing with WAN challenges, but the Interop ITX and InformationWeek survey didn’t find many organization making it a priority. While 25% say they expect to deploy SD-WAN in the next 6 to 24 months, only 8% are currently using it. And 42% have no plans to put SD-WAN production in place at all.
The wireless network has established itself as an essential element of the infrastructure fabric, and companies are committed to expanding their WLANs. Investments in wireless technologies over the next 12 months include wireless access points (47%) to wireless/mobile security (39%), mobile devices (36%), security/surveillance (34%), WLAN management (25%), and wireless switches (21%).
According to IDC, the worldwide enterprise WLAN market grew 9.4% in the second quarter of this year compared to the same quarter last year, reaching $1.48 billion. IDC said a steady stream of upgrades to the 802.11ac wireless standard contributed heavily to the growth. “WLAN is a critical enabler of end-to-end digital transformation strategies as wireless applications and devices continue to unlock new digital and business outcomes,” Nolan Greene, IDC senior research analyst, said in a prepared statement.