NW500: Spending is up on key net techs

Spending is up has increased at most of the 500 companies surveyed by Network World and Research Concepts, with more than half of the respondents saying they are spending more on technology this year than last, while another third estimate they are spend

Network technologies earmarked for the greatest spending increase over the next 12 months are security, wireless LANs, storage and VoIP , according to the annual Network World 500 study.

Spending has increased at most of the 500 companies surveyed by Network World and Research Concepts. More than half of the respondents say they are spending more on technology this year than last, while another third estimate they are spending the same amount. Less than 10% say they are spending less.

Not surprisingly, security is the top concern for many network executives, which is in line with last year's survey. Of the many security concerns keeping execs up at night, the top ones have to do with their networks being vulnerable to viruses and worms, cited by 61%, inside hackers (58%), outside hackers (42%) and unauthorized WLAN access (23%).

The risk of network abuse by insiders is a major concern at Prudential Americana Group Realtors, an ISP for real estate companies in Las Vegas. The company hosts Web sites and e-mail systems for small real estate agents, supporting 1,300 end users.

IT director Thomas Araujo says his challenge is to protect Prudential Americana's network from spyware and limit usage of instant messaging and music download applications that could affect performance. The company uses Palisade Systems' PacketSure to regulate the type of content the network will support.

But network protection is a moving target, says Araujo, who keeps ratcheting up his security spending. He plans to increase that spending by 10% to 20% in the next 12 to 18 months."What's going to hit us next year? Will the products [we put in now] be able to handle that need? You don't know what's coming next."

Top security concernsKeeping up also worries Matthew Todd, chief information security officer and vice president of risk and technology operations at investment advisory firm Financial Engines of Palo Alto. "We're being asked to protect against worms, spyware, and so on, not to mention ensuring the operating system is stable. That requires solutions from [multiple] vendors and it is difficult to manage that and keep a moderate number of IT staff who are expected to be experts in seven or eight security products," he says.

Although he doesn't plan to spend more on security over the next 12 months, he is taking a look at how the funds are allocated. "We're focused on the overall umbrella of risk and business continuity," Todd says.

Financial Engines, which provides investment advice to 4.3 million individual investors, plans to move its corporate systems into the collocation facility that houses the production systems used to store corporate data about investors and investment plans. The move will ensure data availability to the company's three U.S. offices, Todd says.

More wireless LANs

For the first time in the survey's history, more than half (58%) of the respondents have WLANs deployed, with another 15% saying they will implement Wi-Fi within the next two years. The flexibility of having a wireless network and improving the productivity of workers were the top two reasons for implementing WLANs, cited by 76% and 64% of respondents, respectively.

WLANs now the normVoice over wireless LAN (VoWi-Fi) is one application that is gaining ground among survey takers. Twenty-three percent of organizations have deployed this nascent technology, with the number expected to nearly double to 55% within the next two years, according to the research.

The survey suggests that the healthcare industry is one area that can reap benefits from VoWi-Fi as it would allow doctors and nurses to stay connected and access information on the fly.

Healthcare staff at Mission Community Hospital in San Fernando Valley, Calif., have used VoWi-Fi for about eight months to enable the hospital to meet FCC regulations that prohibit the use of cell phones around electronic medical devices, says Ash Dave, the hospital's system transformation adviser.

SpectraLink VoWi-Fi "handsets can be used near patients, and physicians no longer have to call nurses multiple times" in response to pages because they now have a direct link, says Andre Henderson, director of IS at the hospital.

Despite the high penetration rate of WLANs among organizations, security remains the top concern of those implementing WLANs. Nine out of 10 respondents cited security management as a major concern. More than half also mentioned poor network performance.

Henderson agreed that security is a concern. He uses Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and the Media Access Control addressing method to secure the hospital's network. WEP is the second most popular WLAN security technology, used by 70% of respondents, while 90% use VPNs.

Storage still hot

While not as hyped as WLANs, storage remains a hot topic with the Network World 500 respondents simply because data continues to grow unabated. Asked how much their organizations will need to increase storage capacity in the next 12 months, the average answer from respondents was 51%.

Storage capacity growth at MidAmerica Bank in Clarendon Hills, Ill., is 30% per year and Paul Stonchus, first vice president and data center manager, is relying on new tools to cope. The bank has deployed information life-cycle management (ILM) tools to help control storage costs by moving less-critical data to lower-cost storage systems.

Spending more on...ILM enables the bank to free up space on its top tier, mainframe storage platform, an EMC Fibre Channel Symmetrix DMX system. Data is also replicated to an identical disaster-recovery configuration at a facility that's within driving distance from the main center in Naperville.

Critical data, such as bank statements, check images and loan documents, are stored on the Symmetrix and are moved to the bank's lower-cost, mid-tier EMC Clariion system, and finally archived to an EMC Centera system.

The bank is one of the users leading the ILM charge, with the survey showing that only 33% of other respondents have an ILM plan. Another 22% say they are working on a plan, and 14% anticipate working on a plan in 12 months.

"The bank's check image storage needs grow 50% a year, and in 2004 the bank was faced with going from 750G bytes of [storage-area network] storage to 1T byte of SAN storage in a year. Adding Centera nodes is cheaper than adding additional SAN storage," Stonchus says.

MidAmerica expects to continue purchasing SAN storage though, as its business units roll out new applications that require more space, Stonchus says.

Out of the three storage technologies - SANs, network-attached storage and direct-attached storage - half of the survey respondents said they would increase usage of SANs over the next 12 months, compared with 22% for NAS and 7% for DAS devices.

Storage answers

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