Cloud computing and the future of networks

Cloud computing, network virtualisation and on-demand technology services are changing how we think about IT.

If these new services become as ubiquitous as predicted we could see companies accessing their IT services remotely, at the expense of their own IT infrastructure and applications. If this happens, the thinking goes, the importance of the Local Area Network and the IT administrator could diminish as well.

It’s not worth saying the last rites over the LAN and IT administrator just yet, though. There’s no denying that times are changing and the increasing use of cloud computing will mean a shift in ICT practices. Cloud allows flexibility, efficiency and can be employed for so many tasks that we will certainly see a transition on some level. But arguably the uptake of cloud will not be on the scale, or at the speed, that is predicted. Nor will it fundamentally change the IT administration role in the way that some assume.

Firstly, a cloud system is totally dependent on a stable internet connection and is still reliant on the LAN to operate. If a business loses its internet connection for any reason, the entire business will grind to a halt, with even printers unable to function because you won’t have access to the cloud app that sends the file to the printer service.

Secondly, cloud computing - and the internet itself - hinges on the millions of switches, servers and firewalls located across the world. So, organisations will still rely on LANs and continue to demand high availability and fast response times.

Also, there are some companies for whom the cloud simply isn’t applicable. More than a third of the world’s GDP is produced in non-service industries.

These companies that manufacture and rely on machine power simply cannot move to the cloud because the high availability that an assembly line demands is not yet provided there. Machines need to be connected by a local area connection with ultra-high bandwidth and solid security, as well as reliability in the four to five-nines range.

There is a theory that IT administrators will soon become redundant, ready to be moved in all their functions to the cloud - so-called “service as a service” (SEaaS). The idea is that their role would be filled by remote managers who could take over the day-to-day roles like setting passwords, inducting new users and so on with a cloud app. However, this is unlikely. Cloud services are certainly suitable for the more basic tasks, but they couldn’t replace the more technical on-site jobs that require specific expertise and information-based human intelligence.

While cloud computing is undeniably a good tool for increasing efficiency of IT administration, the LAN is not going anywhere yet. And if the LAN is staying, so too is the IT administrator and all their associated monitoring tools that help them do their job will continue to play a crucial role in its maintenance, improvement, economic viability and availability. Meanwhile, we’re in an age when other innovations are of equal and possibly greater importance than the cloud – the internet of things will have a greater impact on the way the office network operates.

These advances will need efficient networks and network administrators to maintain them. It seems likely then that the network, the administrators and the network-monitoring tools on which they depend are here to stay.

If anything their expertise is going to be even more in demand as the complexity and diversity of the network continues to grow.

Dirk Paessler is CEO of Paessler, an IT monitoring software developer based in Nuremberg, Germany