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Predictions for 2006: The hottest trends, the latest technologies

Jan 11, 20064 mins

* In 2006 more companies will move off legacy technologies and on to the latest IP-based infrastructures

ISP industry officials are predicting an exciting year in 2006, as more companies move off legacy technologies and on to the latest IP-based infrastructures. That migration will bring a new set of managed services that carriers plan to offer their customers.

“We see more people converging on one network for data, voice and video,” says Mack Treece, president of Equant Americas. “They want a single, seamless network. That’s what we’re going to see take off in 2006.”

At the same time, corporate IP networks are getting more diverse as users hook up BlackBerries and other handheld devices into the network for Internet access and other services. That’s one of the reasons that network security will continue to be a hot topic in 2006.

“Security is absolutely a must here,” Treece says. “The complexity of the networks is driving people to managed security services and managed messaging. They want these services built into the cloud of the VPN.”

Security related to user authentication and network access is a particularly hot topic, industry executives say. And all the carriers are offering more in-the-cloud services to address users’ security concerns.

“Federated authentication will definitely be a big issue next year,” says Chris Sharp, vice president of MCI NetSec Security Services. “More security services will be trending into the cloud such as network-based intrusion detection. These services are available today…but they’ll be going down market and the prices will come down.”

With security threats on the rise, more companies may be willing to off-load security services to carriers.

“In 2006, you’ll see a lot more companies being open to outsourcing the management of end point devices and patch management and policy management,” Sharp predicts. “I see in 2006 people becoming more and more confident in outsourcing security…because they get more features and functionality while keeping costs low.”

New technologies such as RFID could become more popular and start to have an impact on corporate networks.

“I think machine-to-machine services will begin to take off, especially RFID-like technologies,” Treece says. “We’re working with an insurance company in France that offers special car insurance rates if teenagers do not drive at night. They’re looking at using RFID to monitor the usage of the car. We’re talking to people in the mining business and wine business who are looking to RFID to better manage inventory and to get better marketing information. All of this is going to play over their IP VPNs.”

With the popularity of low-speed wireless data devices such as BlackBerries, some in the industry are predicting more business usage of high-speed wireless data.

“Another question is whether we’ll see the beginning of higher speed wireless data taking off. Does it become more of a mainstream thing or a side issue in the industry?” asks Rose Klimovich, vice president of VPN and integrated networking at AT&T. “Initially, a lot of the positioning was consumer oriented, but the technology could be used for both. You could see high-speed wireless data being more useful to business.”

ISPs agree that mobility is becoming more of an issue for corporate network managers. That means they will have to deal with more teleworkers and traveling employees accessing network services and they need to ensure that those users are authenticated and have secure access.

“Mobility in general is becoming a bigger deal,” Klimovich says. “Having wireless and wireline work together is clearly a big deal in 2005 and it will be more so in 2006.The way that enterprises want to look at this is that they can get any data, any voice calls, anywhere in the world. But you have to worry about wireless and wireline infrastructures in certain countries not being up to par in the U.S. Broadband access also has become important as more and more people are moving off slower speeds when they are working at home, traveling or in small offices.” 

Another issue for 2006 will be carrier consolidation. In 2005, several key mergers were approved including Sprint and Nextel, SBC and ATT, MCI and Verizon. The question for 2006 is whether more carriers will consolidate – as are Level 3 Communications and WilTel Communications in a deal still pending approval – and whether enterprise customers will feel the impact of all of these consolidations.

“You’ll start to see some new stuff in 2006 that’s a result of the consolidation,” says MCI spokeswoman Janet Brumfield. “You’ll see it in different areas of the company. Folks are coming together and working on leveraging our assets to deliver something new to the market. There will definitely be some benefit to the merger that’s felt next year, and the benefits will increase over time.”