IT spending today has less to do with rolling out new, cool technologies and more to do with improving the performance, reliability and operation of the equipment that is already in place in order to meet return on investment objectives.
Today, in the face of tightening budgets and reduced corporate spending, organisations that are planning to expand or upgrade their networks are looking carefully at long-term returns on their investments.
As a result, easily expandable products and technologies are being emphasised over equipment that, while functionally exciting, is limited in scope or weak in business value.
For example, network equipment buyers are looking ahead to new and emerging Web-enabled applications that are expected to drive corporate productivity to new highs. And they are looking to purchase network equipment that will support and complement these future applications.
Network management is also under scrutiny as companies move to streamline and simplify this task, driven by the need to cut operational costs.
Industry watchers believe that in 2003, network managers will use more creative means to get more value out of their existing resources. Products and services that offer spin-off benefits - such as better security - will flourish in 2003, according to an October 2002 Forrester Research report.
Layered approach to security
Businesses will address security risks with a more holistic approach, including both technologies and practices. Among these is the growing need for security education among IT buyers, and the lack of in-house security expertise brought on by the brain drain in South Africa.
Good news for the channel is that organisations will increasingly turn to third parties such as VARs and specialist consultants to develop security policies and to guide security implementations.
Additionally, firms will seek to combine technologies into multi-layer security implementations rather than rely upon a fragmented assortment of point products to secure the enterprise. Best described as 'layered security', businesses will increasingly look to provide maximum security protection at multiple levels and entry points on the network, using technologies such as 802.1x, embedded firewalls and integrated perimeter firewalls.
No longer will security be seen as a black hole into which corporates throw money with unknown results. In 2003, companies will take a more pragmatic approach to security and increasingly rationalise their security architectures and quantify security risks and returns.
Intelligence at the edge
One of the more significant networking trends in 2003 will be the increasing use of intelligence at the network edge to deliver ease of use. This trend signals the final demise of the notion popular in the late 1990s that intelligence would excel at the core of the network and the edge would become commoditised.
However, 'easy to use' does not mean simple. In fact, where networks are concerned, easy to use often requires significant intelligence in the form of sophisticated switching and other technology to deliver the robust features and flexibility required in many enterprise environments.
As IT managers grapple with increasingly distributed enterprise networking environments such as branch offices and telecommuters, as well as the demand for new applications (web, voice and wireless), they will increasingly demand solutions that self-configure or adapt to new usage requirements in a way that eases management, increases control and minimises the total cost of ownership (TCO).
The year of the wireless LAN
In 2003, wireless LANs (WLANs) will shift dramatically from their nice-to-have to must-have status. Proof that this trend will establish itself in South Africa lies in the continued growth in enterprise WLAN purchases on a global scale, despite widespread depressed economic conditions.
According to a Gartner Dataquest report, entitled 'Wireless LAN market set for strong growth through 2005', end-user spending on wireless LAN products is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 22 percent from 2003 to 2005.
Gartner reported that the primary driver for wireless LANs is "the growing demand for bandwidth to allow portable PCs to have more flexible access to e-mail, Web content and corporate applications." Because the mobile devices and applications already exist, Gartner made the point that the growth of the wireless LAN market does not depend on the new emergence of killer applications or devices.
As businesses demand fast, reliable and constant access to information, dealers and resellers with WLAN expertise will deliver innovative and technologically sound solutions at prices attractive to the mass market.
For more information contact 3Com SA, 011 700 8600.