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Network refresh cycles start to pick up

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Enterprises across the globe are refreshing their network equipment earlier in its lifecycle in a move to embrace workplace mobility, Internet of Things (IoT), and software-defined networking (SDN) strategies.
In addition, their equipment refresh is more strategic, with architectural vision in mind. But despite the higher refresh rate, networks are getting less secure, largely due to neglected patching.
These are some of the highlights in the annual Network Barometer Report from Dimension Data. First published in 2009, the 2016 Network Barometer Report was compiled from data gathered from 300 000 service incidents logged for client networks that Dimension Data supports. Dimension Data also carried out 320 technology lifecycle management assessments covering 97 000 network devices in organisations of all sizes and all industry sectors across 28 countries.
Andre van Schalkwyk, senior practice manager: network consulting at Dimension Data, says: “Since 2010, networks had been ageing. This year’s report reverses that trend, and for the first time in five years, we’re seeing networks age more slowly.
“Ageing networks are not necessarily a bad thing: companies just need to understand the implications. They require a different support construct, with gradually increasing support costs. On the other hand, this also means that organisations can delay refresh costs,” says van Schalkwyk, pointing out that ageing networks are unlikely to support initiatives such as software-defined networking and automation, or handle traffic volumes necessary for collaboration or cloud.
According to the Network Barometer Report, in Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Australia enterprises’ network age reduced in line with the global average, while in the Americas, the number of ageing and obsolete devices decreased much faster, from 60% in the 2015 report to 29% in the 2016 report. This can be attributed to the release of pent-up spend following four years of financial constraint.
Van Schalkwyk says that clients in the Americas appear to be refreshing networks with the new generation of programmable infrastructure. In Asia-Pacific and Australia, equipment refresh occurred as part of data centre network redesigns.
In contrast to the global trend, in Middle East and Africa, the network age increased, possibly the result of economic uncertainty, particularly in South Africa.
Meanwhile, of the 97 000 network devices that Dimension Data discovered, the number of devices that have at least one known security vulnerability increased from 60% in the 2015 report to 76% in the 2016 report – the highest figure in five years.
In Europe the rise in network vulnerabilities has been very steep over the last three years, hiking from 26% in 2014 to 51% in 2015 and to 82% in the 2016 report. Network vulnerability has also risen in organisations in the Middle East and Africa over the last three years. In Australia, 87% of network devices have at least one known vulnerability. In Asia-Pacific and the Americas, networks are slightly less vulnerable – respectively 49% and 66%, compared to 61% and 73% in the previous edition.
Other highlights in the 2016 Network Barometer Report include:
* The percentage of devices supporting IPv6 rose steeply from 21% last year to 41% this year, due to the increase in current devices in networks. This allows organisations with newer networks to support their digitisation strategies by enabling connectivity for the Internet of Things, big data, analytics, and containerisation.
* Software-defined networking is coming soon, but not just yet. While there is market interest in software-defined networks, it’s early in the adoption cycle and today, few organisational networks are capable of supporting a software-defined approach. In 2015 fewer than 0,4% of devices could support software-defined WAN and only 1,3% of data centre switches were SDN-ready.
* Incident response is 69% faster, and repair time 32% faster networks monitored by Dimension Data. These numbers reduce by a further 55% and 36% respectively, when combined with Dimension Data’s service desk integration.
* 37% of incidents are caused by configuration or human error, which can be avoided with proper monitoring, configuration management, and automation.