• United States

Notes from the State of LAN road

Dec 08, 20033 mins

A few weeks back, we concluded this year’s Network World State of the LAN tour. For those who attended, here are some observations about what we heard – and perhaps more importantly, some comparisons with previous years.

A significant part of our day is devoted to discussion with attendees. While we are always fortunate enough to get hit with good questions, this year the quantity and especially the quality of those questions both rose dramatically. In general, questions were anything but basic and typically dealt with issues one only arrives at after significant research has taken place.

While our population sample was clearly too small to draw significant conclusions, it certainly seemed that our attendees were more educated on key issues than they were in the past. One might suppose that the current economic climate has triggered a significant amount of IT introspection. The result being that we have a user base more educated and less likely to be simply led around by vendors.

Unlike other events that are targeted at specific technology areas, our event is the “big tent” where any LAN-related topic is allowed. Thus, we got a good idea of what’s on people’s minds.

For starters, the converged network seems to be a given. Certainly the network vendors feel that way (and have for a while), but this year there wasn’t a dissenting voice to be heard. While the “five-nines” of uptime that traditional PBX systems deliver is still somewhat elusive with voice-over-IP systems, the flexibility and savings garnered by integrating voice and data infrastructure are just too significant to ignore.

In its presentation, Cisco even expanded the notion of the converged infrastructure to include yet another network that has been traditionally outside of IT’s control: the in-building security network. This was done in tandem with another key theme of power over Ethernet (PoE).

Speaker after speaker extolled the virtues of PoE. Not only would it help enable integration of IP-based security cameras but in the case of wireless, it is almost mandatory. Sprinkling access points throughout ceilings in buildings is hard enough without having also to find or run power. We heard that getting PoE in their networks would be critical to future expansion.

It was no surprise that wireless was also a key topic. Speakers and attendees seemed in agreement that enterprise-class wireless (as opposed to small office/home office) will continue to make great inroads but that it will complement rather than replace wire-line communications.

Which brings us to Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop. Vendors were pushing strong on the topic – but attendees weren’t biting. While attendees would like to have it in place, very few can find reasons compelling enough to convince management to go that route. Although vendors say that prices for Gigabit copper ports are so close to 10/100M bit/sec as to make it an easy decision, many attendees didn’t see things that way. When asked about plans 12 to 18 months out, though, many attendees agreed that by then, Desktop Gigabit likely would be the standard switch-port purchase.

The mood was upbeat and it appears that many users are poised to bring their LAN infrastructure up-to-date – and that has got to make vendors happy.