New year, new networking

The upheavals of 2006 are over, but are still making waves. Pressure for greater mobility and bandwidth on the internet will put regional SPs under the spotlight. But will 2007 be the year that the environmental lobby finally turns its attention to the network?

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By  Eliot Beer Published  December 31, 2006

For both the Middle East and the West, January will bring a new year, albeit 20 days apart. As ever, the new year will bring a host of new products, initiatives, scandals and failures in the world of IT.

Last year certainly brought its fair share of those – HP, arguably the biggest IT company in the world, was rocked by its boardroom infighting; here in the Middle East, Intel’s sudden urge to look into exactly where all those CPUs are going caused ructions in the channel; and security foul-ups, as ever, shamed some of the biggest names in the industry.

The world of networking, though, ploughed on fairly quietly – certainly it didn’t seem to experience quite the dramas that many other areas suffered. But, in its own quiet way networking has had a pretty revolutionary time over the past 12 months.

In the wireless space 2006 saw the arrival of ‘pre-n’ kit, as well as the elimination of some of the nagging security issues which still plague the sector. We also saw the – very gentle – lift-off of WiMax, and the start of a drive which may fundamentally change the way we use portable devices.

This drive towards mobile computing has major implications for networks – if the vision of remote working really does come to pass (and this is by no means certain – the same vision has been trotted out once a year for the last half-decade at least), organisations may have fundamentally to change the way they build and pay for their networks.

The Middle East will have some catching up to do in this sector – the region’s service providers do not offer the same options to enterprises as their counterparts in Europe and the US. At the same time, the Middle East is possibly more able to appreciate the benefits of a mobile workforce.

The SPs will not only have to worry about mobility – if 2007 goes the way of 2006, then internet backbones across the region will come under strain from the increasing volumes of multimedia content, much of it in real-time. The success of sites such as Youtube has kick-started the video revolution, and (once we get past teenagers pulling amusing faces to Eastern European pop songs), this could offer businesses an interesting chance to look again at how they communicate.

In December NME talked to Extreme Networks’ CEO Mark Canepa about the future of networking – his vision focused very much on the potential for effective communication to cut down travel for businesses.

This is not only in a bid to save money, but also to conserve energy and slow down the damage being done to the environment.

Networking specifically has largely escaped this drive – so far. But it may well be that 2007 is the year that network infrastructure has to start justifying itself environmentally, as well as in pure economic terms. All those switches, especially power over Ethernet enabled kit, are starting to put out a lot of heat – it can only be a matter of time before someone starts to ask some awkward questions.

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