Future pipes: 4 networking technologies for the future
Technologies that promise to deliver greater network efficiency
What will the network look like tomorrow? Although the traffic itself probably won’t change too much, the topology and tools that enable the network will be new and will require network administrators to educate themselves and their teams. Here are four network technologies and trends that everyone in IT will be hearing more about in the coming year and beyond.
OpenFlow: This open standard, which was developed at Stanford University, is being used to deploy innovative protocols in production networks, according to the Open Networking Foundation. It enables organizations to remove the control plane from the forwarding plane or the routers and bring it back and centralize it so they can easily partition and run different services, said Bob Laliberte, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. “Companies like Google use it,” he said. “The main reason to use OpenFlow is that it is an API that allows a switch to talk to a controller. An OpenFlow controller can help derive some of the more intelligent network functions. By adding this level of programmability into the switches, it allows the ability to scale an environment without having to deal with all the manual processes that usually accompany consolidating or scaling out a data center.”
NetFlow: This network protocol, developed by Cisco Systems, has a big place in today’s network and the future. At its core, NetFlow lets network administrators monitor all the different network sessions going on at any given time. Although the protocol isn’t new, the fact that a wide variety of network management systems are designed specifically to harvest and analyze NetFlow records is. Another emerging trend: The use of tools designed to find security issues using NetFlow records.
5G Wi-Fi (802.11ac): The next step after 802.11n, which enjoys wide deployment, is backward-compatible so network administrators can deploy it today to support current and future devices. The main benefit of 802.11ac is speed, said Craig Mathias, principal analyst at Farpoint Group, an advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobile technologies. The technology ups the amount of spectrum that we use in a channel. With 802.11n, there were 40 MHz channels. With 802.11ac, network managers will use 80 MHz and conceivably even 160 MHz channels.
“That’s a lot of spectrum,” Mathias said. “The initial performance that people are going to hear about is 1.3 gigabits/sec versus the upper [boundary] of 600 megabits/sec — or, practically speaking, 250 megabits/sec — in 802.11n. So we’re going from [250 megabits] to 1.3 gigabits.” In practical terms, 802.11ac is the first wireless standard to break the gigabit barrier, a fact that has been widely reported and anticipated.
Ultimately, it’s not all about throughput, it’s about capacity, and 802.11ac delivers, Mathias said. “It’s not so much about giving you hundreds of megabits per second. It’s more about getting a lot of users on the air with an incredibly diverse array of applications and data types.”
Centralized network controls and out-of-band management: Network administrators will need greater control over all the networks in their organizations — wired and wireless — as well as disparate devices. Today’s users are likely to have multiple devices and use them fluidly, moving from their desktop to their tablet PC to their smart phone in a matter of minutes. When they do that, they want access to their data, and they expect their experience to be the same no matter which device they are using, said Jon Oltsik, a senior principal analyst at IT advisory firm Enterprise Strategy Group.
Because of those trends, network administrators will need the ability to control and enable access across multiple devices and networks while at the same time enforcing network access policies at a more granular level, Oltsik said.