The Way Business Is Moving published by
Issue Date: February 2002

Network managers: how to survive to 2005!

1 February 2002
Martin May: regional director, Enterasys Networks (sub-Saharan Africa)

The revolution within the corporate world from a networking perspective.
The new technology devices such as cellphones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) are changing the way we access information and interact with one another. They are also changing the way companies interact with their staff, their customers and their suppliers.
Businesses the world over rely heavily on their ability to provide electronic content to employees, users, partners, customers and suppliers.
This is true whether the content is transmitted via e-mail, web commerce and supply chain management, or more industry-specific applications such as digital X-ray imaging and education records. Until now, reliability and efficiency in the areas of security and availability of content were targets to be aimed at, not goals to be realised.
However, the corporate computing infrastructure is rapidly changing to meet these demands.
The focus of networking development between now and 2005 will centre, not on Ethernet, IP routing or speeds and feeds, but on security, highly availability and mobility. This will represent a fundamental shift in the connectivity paradigm from today.
As the world becomes increasingly more information-centric and dependent on the corporate network, the potential for loss is greater, and the need for complete security is magnified.
In fact, network security, availability and mobility are the three key requirements for global enterprises that will stretch into the foreseeable future.
The strategy for the network of 2005 is beginning to clarify, but the evolution has just begun.
Companies are increasingly replacing traditional network infrastructures with Internet-based solutions, giving them access to a global virtual network that securely extends the edge of the corporate network anywhere in the world.
As a result, on-demand access to an absolutely secure corporate network from anywhere on the planet is now an attainable goal.
The enterprise of 2005
The enterprise of 2005 will most likely exist as a multiple connection environment leveraging Ethernet, IP, wireless and virtual private networks (VPNs) as the basis for connectivity.
The architecture that will define the corporate network from now until 2005 will, of necessity, be able to integrate legacy wired systems with new-generation wireless networks and wireless network overlays.
In 2005, vendors will deliver complete connectivity solutions and provide integrated security, management, visibility, services as well as solutions that enable the convergence of disparate applications over common communication systems.
As individuals gain greater access to multiple information devices and therefore multiple methods of connection.
In 2005, technology will be driven by the need to increase productivity to meet the growing aspirations of globalised organisations and the increased mobility of their executives and staff.
In this regard, we can expect to see a greater focus on wireless technologies and VPNs.
Mobile access is a natural application for a VPN because the ubiquitous access of the global Internet can be tapped as a dial-up access network replacement. With its simple-to-install, point-and-click operation, users can solve the often difficult problem of connecting travelling employees to the virtual network enabling them to utilise central applications and databases.
The keys to a successful VPN-based remote access solution are to be found in a strong security architecture, incorporating new generation high-performance encryption and compression of PPTP and IPsec tunnels, as well as centralised authentication, policy-based access control, together with configuration and fault management.
What will become increasingly necessary as 2005 draws near, will be a complete upgrade from past designs, with new systems incorporating greater intelligence within all elements of the network.
For example, hardware at the core of the network will be based almost exclusively on Layer 4 technology, with 10/100 Layer 3 switching technology in the LAN together with wireless LAN (WLAN) overlays.
In 2005 VPNs will replace remote access servers and wide area networks (WANs) will evolve into metropolitan area networks (MANs) featuring optical infrastructures.
Companies opting for VPN solutions will have in place a comprehensive VPN management architecture with centralised control over policy definition and network configuration.
Intelligent client software
In addition, intelligent client software and programmable network gateways that maximise network visibility by reporting status and tracking all VPN activities will be de rigueur.
These solutions will give network availability from remote user's access point to central site network connection and facilitate control of Internet and corporate network access. For example, changes in policies should be automatically updated and enforced in the client PC, while link failures across the VPN should be able to be monitored, detected and corrected automatically.
The road to 2005
In the coming years, we can expect the adoption of increasingly intelligent infrastructures, with Quality of Service (QoS), security, control and visibility at the edge of the network being of paramount importance.
Education, health care, government and private businesses are all looking for more flexibility in their workforces, and this is driving the need for freedom and flexibility of both users and information.

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