Has the advent of cloud computing and cloud-hosted services heralded the death knell for the corporate network as we know it?
“Not at all,” says Andy Robb, chief technology officer at Duxbury Networking. “We’ve been hearing this kind of talk for some time now from the cloud computing and virtualisation protagonists but nothing could be further from the truth.”
If anything, says Robb, the corporate network will grow in importance and relevance, mirroring the acceptance of cloud computing and cloud hosted services.
“Even if traditional voice and video services, currently within the domain of the network, are cloud hosted in future, the network will remain a key and critical component of how these services are provisioned to the end user,” he explains.
Underlining this, Robb points to the growing importance of wireless technology as an access mechanism and not simply as an ad hoc network overlay for the convenience of a few mobile senior managers and executives.
“Wireless will unlock the power of the cloud. It is capable of taking corporate network infrastructures from static, fixed architectures to dynamic, virtualised ones,” he stresses.
“For example, wireless technologies are increasingly being adopted to link indoor, outdoor and municipal area networks and are key requirements in the quest for closer collaboration between the cloud host and end user with a view to enhancing productivity. This is supported by new developments in instant messaging, video conferencing and the ability today to have video on the desktop.”
Robb adds that video integration with existing communication devices such as mobile phones, desktop phones and soft clients is also driving the growth of ‘the back office’.
“When we speak of the back office we refer, of course, to the network which is being called upon to support a plethora of emerging, cloud-hosted, converging applications.”
How far will the network evolve? “The network will become the transport mechanism for powering most of the devices in the corporate environment, enhancing it to critical component status,” maintains Robb.
“As much as ‘cloud-based storage’, ‘hosting’ and ‘virtualisation’ may seem far removed from the network – and as much as they are the ‘buzz-words’ in the IT industry at present – the actual transport of these services right down to a user on a mobile phone or on a laptop, be he on the move or at his desk, is dependent on the corporate network.
“Consequently, the end-to-end network remains a key component which must be critically designed and deployed. From a design standpoint, it is even more critical than the hardware on which cloud-based services are running,” he notes.
Turning again to the role of wireless, he says high capacity wireless links have enabled users to work more efficiently and, from a corporate perspective, allowed organisations to connect branches and bring effective disaster recovery and similar services online at a fraction of the cost of wired services which are often handicapped by bandwidth constraints.
“Municipalities are beginning to use the technology to provision services of all kinds – many will be cloud-based in future – to residents over municipal area networks (MANs) within their areas,” adds Robb.
He says voice and Internet services as well as many kinds of point-of-sale, metering and other services are becoming more important in regional and local government too – pointing to the strength of the network and the overarching ability of the cloud and hosted services to trigger new business opportunities for all sectors.