Is it a man’s world – or a bandwidth hungry world? If the godfather of soul, James Brown, read The State of the Network report he may have changed his lyrics. This year’s report is indicative of how businesses globally are ramping up next-gen infrastructure driven by – you guessed it - skyrocketing bandwidth needs. It also shines a light on the problems businesses and their IT teams face. Yes, consumers love lightning-fast Internet. For enterprises however, super-powerful connectivity has implications for their bottom line. It is mission critical.
The state of the network
The report found that nearly a quarter of businesses projected their bandwidth growth to be over 150 per cent. To meet these needs, enterprises are radically increasing the deployment of 100 Gigabit Ethernet (100 GbE), looking to the cloud and adopting Software Defined Networking (SDN) to give them more computational power and greater flexibility.
Clearly bigger is better when it comes to capacity. Only 4 per cent wanted to use 25GbE and 6 per cent want 40GbE in 2017. Over two thirds of respondents planned to move to 100 GbE by 2017. The miniscule adoption rates for 25 GbE and 40 GbE could simply be a stop gap measure before the implementation of a larger pipe to run between servers. And those pipes and servers are increasingly getting connected to the cloud.
Papa’s got a brand new cloud
Services such as Amazon Web Services, IBM SoftLayer, Google’s Cloud Platform, and Microsoft’s Azure continue to grow in popularity. 66 per cent of respondents have turned to such public clouds and 54 per cent have taken on private cloud platforms. These findings mirror IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Cloud IT Infrastructure Tracker. Released last month, the analyst outfit estimated that spending on private cloud IT infrastructure will grow by 11.1 per cent year over year to $13.9 billion (£9.4bn). Spending on public cloud IT infrastructure will increase by 14.1 per cent in 2016 to $24.4 billion (£17.5bn). Cloud adoption continues apace.
Needless to say there are numerous advantages to using cloud technology. The State of the Network found that the majority of businesses wanted to benefit from lower OpEx and CapEx. 53 per cent wanted better service availability and 39 per cent felt it could deliver new services faster.
Three’s a crowd?
The majority of businesses relied on at least two public cloud vendors. 13 per cent selected three or more cloud vendors. Why take on multiple cloud providers? Businesses want to reduce the risk associated with single vendor lock-in.
And who is pushing for the adoption of cloud and hybrid IT infrastructure? The IT crowd. 40 per cent of IT teams say they want cloud and hybrid technology 'ASAP' while 2 out of 3 managers were 'still working through some details' before adopting it. While the dithering by managers might be damaging, the results are indicative of the pressure IT teams were experiencing. They have to grapple with the challenges of cloud adoption while balancing the exponential growth in bandwidth.
Unsurprisingly, businesses are turning to the cloud to host their apps. Almost 90 per cent of enterprises have at least one application in the cloud and nearly a third have the majority of their applications there. By 2017, over 50 per cent will have the majority of their applications on the cloud.
What’s more, SDN saw impressive adoption rates in 2016. That’s jumped from 21 per cent usage in enterprises in 2015 to two-thirds in 2016. Most respondents appear to be relying on hardware vendors such as Cisco and Brocade. Finally, after much hype and talk, SDN is coming of age.
Clouds gathering on the horizon
Despite the popularity of cloud platforms, businesses also voiced their concerns. 90 per cent feared a loss of visibility and control and a similar number worried that Service Level Agreements (SLAs) could not be enforced. Other reservations include tracking the end user’s experience and problems with deployment.
These challenges are expected to remain constant into the future, as both engineers and tools adapt to meet both new business models and technological environments. To minimise risk, enterprises and their IT teams must collaborate closely wherever and whenever clouds are deployed.
Given the increasing number of apps being deployed, each year, the State of the Network asked respondents to rate the major troubleshooting anxieties. Over the past eight years the biggest frustration has been to identify the root cause of a fault. For the first time in the study’s 9-year history, the 2016 result was different. That’s revealing.
The majority (over 60 per cent) of respondents were having difficulties managing application bugs and patches. When tied to the exponential growth in cloud adoption, this reveals the headaches businesses face when it comes to hosting outside of internal data centres. Other problems according to the respondents include measuring latency and delay, monitoring bandwidth consumption and handling user complaints.
The study also looked at the most prevalent workplace collaboration tools - what’s known as Unified Communications (UC). They all require bandwidth and computational power. VoIP services remain the top UC technology. Nearly two thirds of enterprises rely on it along with Instant Messaging where platforms like Slack have soared in popularity.
Does my data look big in this?
In summary, networks are being strained by an explosion of data traffic, from bandwidth-hungry video to cloud-based applications. The 2016 State of the Network shows just how businesses and their IT teams are responding to such emerging technologies, opportunities – and the ensuing challenges. What are the key takeaways from this year’s report?
There’s zero room for IT silos
It is mission critical for businesses to collaborate closely with their IT teams to maximize service delivery levels. Similarly, IT teams must work closely with their performance management vendors to navigate the evolving converged, virtual and cloud-based architectures.
Take the bull by the horns
Leave no stone unturned when it comes to monitoring hybrid IT environments where resources can be hosted in public, private, or legacy infrastructure. Take an aggressive approach to pinpoint and address bugs and patches.
Be open to change
As network speeds reach 100 GbE, installation, monitoring and troubleshooting processes will probably need to be redesigned to achieve acceptable levels of performance.
No waiting games
Managers must drive the adoption of cloud and hybrid IT infrastructure. The IT crowd needs help – fast.
If James Brown was singing, he might say the business world needs to get up offa their feet and sort out that bandwidth! Sooner rather than later.
Steve Brown, Director of Enterprise Solutions, Viavi Solutions