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The future revealed: Industry expert predicts what’s hot, what’s not

Jan 09, 20067 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMobileSmall and Medium Business

I look back at the past year and realize that everything changed and nothing changed in 2005.

Mergers and acquisitions in the telecom industry created behemoth new carriers intent on rebuilding themselves into pre-1982 versions of AT&T. IPOs such as Google’s rekindled 1990’s delusions of grandeur in venture capitalists and Internet start-ups. And Cisco reversed Copernicus by embracing the concept that it and the network are at the center of the IT world.

But enough of the past – what will 2006 bring? Let’s look at what might happen within each network segment – corporate, small and midsize business (SMB), and service provider.

The corporate segment will see the continuing advance of service-oriented architecture (SOA) implementations.Two SOA initiatives that will allow application virtualization to occur across a network will come into formal being as standards in 2006.

A service-component architecture that provides a model for constructing and assembling networks of services, and service objects that provide for common access to data are mandatory to make corporate SOAs into a multivendor reality. Databases have been stuck in an SQL rut for two decades.

XML Databases and XQuery are set to reengineer information storage and processing in 2006. Corporate networks will become not just vehicles for business but the nervous system of the extended corporation, linking diverse IT business applications or components together into efficient business processes.

Data centers will begin to change into data-center area networks clustering next-generation 10G Ethernet backplane blade servers in 2006. It is here that one of the major corporate network battles will be fought. If Cisco is correct, servers and storage will be interconnected into an intelligent network using their virtualization- and application-optimizing switches through dumb pipes such as . If the IT industry is correct, interconnection will occur using high-performance, low-latency Ethernet switching, with optimization and virtualization intelligence occurring in the servers and the storage.

IT infrastructure vendors such as IBM realize that differentiation means optimized software execution or information retrieval speed, not raw hardware power. As an example, more embedded networking assist technology must become part of IBM’s hardware and software offerings.

The year 2006 will bring increasing conflict and changes to the world of network and systems management. Netconf, based on XML, will formally come into being, with numerous IETF RFCs forever changing SNMP-based network management. At the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, specifications are being built for Web Services Distributed Management. Implementations in 2006 will force a resolution.

All these new management automation efforts are focused on the use of machine-to-machine (autonomic) management rather than human-to-machine management. Recent empirical performance history indicates that a lack of confidence in autonomic management was unfounded, and autonomic adoption must accelerate to reduce costs, operational errors and downtime. This will be the year we see more corporate adoption of autonomic management.

It also will be the year for the arrival of Windows Vista from Microsoft. This will likely be the desktop operating system that replaces the workhorse of the industry, Windows 2000. Look for integrated VoIP technology such as a Call Manager, and the use of new Session Initiation Protocol extensions for multicast video instant messaging.

As with any new product, look but don’t leap in 2006. There will be no silver bullet available from any source to fix the myriad security issues projected to occur again in 2006. New technology is just beginning to appear that has potential in the areas of security management and policy. Instead of using table-lookup or pattern-matching algorithms to identify and resolve problem areas, vendors will use biological and behavioral mathematics to begin to address these issues in 2006.

The SMB segment’s first network goal is cost-avoidance. In 2005, IP PBX technology embedded in a router created a billion-dollar business. This year will find an even less-expensive alternative using peer-to-peer PBX technology with the arrival of Windows Vista. Internet-based WAN access will evolve, with greater focus on alternative voice and video.

With Skype telephone numbers beginning to appear on business cards, it’s clear that peer-to-peer telephony over the Internet is not a passing fad. Greater adoption of Internet voice, video Skype and video IM will be next in 2006 to reduce travel costs and telephony charges. This segment’s need for inexpensive bandwidth for Internet access will not stop. Security and software-on-demand services are driving that need, rather than internal IT use. SMB demand for low-cost, flat-rate alternative carrier services from any source including the cable industry will continue in 2006.

The service-provider business segment is experiencing its next phase of growth and internal investment. This accelerated capital expenditure is being fueled by increased competition and technological change, not by mergers and acquisition.

Wireline carriers worldwide are losing revenue to wireless carriers at a rapid pace. Wireline carriers in the United States have a competitive nightmare on their hands with the cable companies. There will be a rush of technology investment in 2006 within the converged wireline-carrier world such as IP Multimedia Subsystem for consumer services; Ethernet replacement of SONET/SDH for metro networking; Gigabit-capable Passive Optical Network fiber to the node coupled with very-high bit rate DSL last mile copper access for IPTV; common wireline/wireless infrastructure equipment convergence using advanced telecom computing architecture blades; Business Support Systems/Operation Support Systems services integration; and conversion to a complete IP network infrastructure.

The wireless cellular carriers will be upgrading to faster versions of 3G to meet broadband mobile demand. To add more fuel to the competitive fire, more than 20 municipal broadband network deployments will begin rollout in 2006 using Wi-Fi and WiMAX for wireless Internet access.

Although WiMAX will be getting the brunt of the wireless marketing in 2006, most deployments will be using the IEEE 801.16d fixed mode for carrier local backhaul and rural cable distribution. The true killer wireless broadband technology standard is the mobile version IEEE 802.16e approved in December 2005. Major deployments of this disruptive technology will not begin until 2007.

Meanwhile, the consumer segment will see the most intense competitive activity and capital outlay. The battle will continue to rage between wireless and wireline but kicked up a notch into the realm of video.

This year will be the beginning of the age of the mobile Internet and mobile video. Not only will we see increased availability and bandwidth in 3G services, but multimode Wi-Fi/3G handsets will hit the market with more intelligence, more memory, a sharper image camera, wider display screens and most important – longer battery life. PCs and laptops will begin to replace or augment TVs, not with IPTV, the buzzword of 2005, but with ITV (Internet TV).

New non-subscription-based music and games, and old-fashioned data and voice applications will still be the basics of the network industry but revolutionary applications such as ITV, video-based IM and vlogging – video blogging – will aggressively appear in 2006.

Needless to say, more bandwidth will be needed but at a reasonable rather than an exponential level. Video is fundamentally different from data or voice and needs to be processed using variable vs. fixed bit rate encoding.

Watch in 2006 for MPEG-4 technology (H.264) to appear in set-tops and mobile devices. Later in the year the video revolution accelerates again, using intelligent, content-aware technology. The debate will continue in 2006 whether the PC or the set-top is the right choice for the media entertainment center that allows integrated Internet access, wireless digital control capability, and the distribution of data, voice and video throughout the house using a variety of technologies, such as multimedia over coax and video over Wi-Fi.

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