|Issue:||Europe II 2008|
|Topic:||Intelligent networks – coping with growth|
|Title:||CEO & Chairman|
As President and CEO of 3Com, Edgar Masri leads the company’s global operations. Mr Masri is also a member of the Board of Directors and serves as Chairman of the Board. Prior to re-joining 3Com, Mr Masri spent six years at Matrix Partners, a venture capital firm focused on technology investments, and also served as Chief Operating Officer at Redline Communications. Earlier, during his first tenure at 3Com, Mr Masri led 3Com’s Network Systems Business Unit as Senior Vice President and General Manager. Mr Masri has also served as President of 3Com Ventures, the company’s venture arm, and held management positions in Product Management, Marketing and Business Development. Edgar Masri holds a Diplome d’Ingenieur from Ecole Centrale de Paris, a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and a Master of Business Administration with distinction (Arijay Miller Scholar) from Stanford University.
The growth of the Internet, indeed telecommunications in general, has put increasing demands upon the network. To better manage network traffic nowadays, network devices such as routers and switches are equipped with sufficient intelligence to authenticate users and devices and provide appropriate secure access, control network priorities based upon the organisation’s policies and manage traffic. Open-source applications and standards increases interoperability and reduce costs. The use of intelligence embedded in the network increases network efficiency and helps reduce power usage.
Since I joined the IT industry, I have seen networks become a basic utility as fundamental as the power, lighting and plumbing in a building. Much of this pervasiveness is driven by the rising use of the Internet: now, small and medium businesses as well as global enterprises have their own networks – often secure, converged networks running over IP (Internet Protocol). The Internet-based IT world, however, moves ever on, and convergence – which used to mean just data and voice over IP running on the same network – is now all about combining applications, intelligence and network optimization to save time, money and effort. It is about knowing where people are without wasting time searching for them. It is about collaborating more quickly and completely. It is about making it easier to access and manipulate data. It is about a new wave of standardised application delivery platforms that require equipment vendors, application developers and end-users to ‘get in the game’ sooner rather than later. Fundamentally, it is about creating a virtual, on-demand environment that enables people to get what they need, when they need it. These needs can range from simply accessing data from wherever you are to launching another application to alleviate a bottleneck in the network. At the heart of the network, switches have developed to cope with the rising demands of Internet-based communications. Basic connectivity and ‘wire-speed’ performance are now the norm for all switches. The challenge now for IT managers is how to address future network needs and broader organizational challenges; for vendors, the challenge is how to differentiate their switching and routing products through higher levels of functionality and intelligence. To meet the ever-growing demands of Internet usage, switches must now offer flexibility, scalability and a higher level of intelligence – with the potential to integrate future applications for the benefit of the organization. Intelligent switches As all types of communication (voice, video and data) converge onto the IP network, the underlying Ethernet switches have to change and become more intelligent. Currently, most Ethernet switches are simple but highly effective high-speed forwarders of Ethernet packets. However, the majority of installed Ethernet switches simply do not understand what applications are traversing the organisation’s network, their relationship and relative level of importance, or which user groups need what services since the simple ‘forwarding and forgetting’ of Ethernet packets does not allow applications and media types to be differentiated. Now, however, switches are evolving into more intelligent devices; they ‘understand’ and implement controlling actions based upon the organisation’s desired policies and applications to deliver a bespoke user experience. In essence, we are beginning to see another level of convergence – the convergence of applications, operating system and network infrastructure into highly integrated entities that share information, policy and a single point of management. Imagine an intelligent network that authenticates both the user and their device with a single sign-on before they are given any network connectivity. Users are given appropriate access rights based upon the organisation’s desired policies. Convergence devices such as IP phones or IP cameras are instantly identified, delivered power, and placed in separate, secure VLANs to connect instantly to their respective IP PBX or IP CCTV services. Traffic flows throughout the network are controlled based upon policies specifying the application type, link utilisation or cost. This deeper understanding and monitoring of traffic flow enables network managers to use tools to visualise performance and manage infrastructure and application performance levels across the IP network. New switching technologies Switching technology is evolving in other ways too. Power over the Ethernet (PoE+ 802.3at) connections offering between 13 and 70W per port will soon become a reality, offering enough power for pan/tilt/zoom cameras, thin clients, PoS (point of sale) terminals and much more. A lower cost alternative to fibre, especially in server and storage applications, 10G-BASE-T technology will become widely available, providing 10Gbps operation for up to 100 meters on twisted pair CAT-6 cabling. A cheaper alternative to LX-4, 10G-BASE-LRM (Long Reach Multimode) provides 10Gbps technology over installed FDDI (fibre distributed data interface) grade multimode fibre. This will give 10G technology a huge boost by lowering the cost of fibre 10G solutions over almost any multi-mode fibre up to distances of 300m. Triple-speed switch ports with PoE are increasingly being adopted by the market. We have seen growth of 40 per cent per quarter in triple speed PoE. With the advent of 802.11n, high resolution MPEG-4 IP cameras, and IP phones with gigabit pass-through ports, it makes sense for organisations of all sizes to future-proof themselves with a gigabit PoE solution. We are also seeing a huge take-up of Gigabit switches with fixed 10G ports. The real test is how many customers are buying the transceivers to enable the technology. We have seen a 200 per cent growth quarter-on-quarter for these transceivers, and we predict 10G will be the fastest growing market with the advent of cheaper technologies such as LRM and 10G-BASE-T. Open source, open standards As the connectivity, performance and protocols of modern Internet Protocol networks become the norm, the prevalence of open standards increases and drives interoperability, freedom of choice and more competitive pricing. This concept of openness is now influencing the embedding of network-centric applications. Networks can be enriched by a rich and diverse set of third party, open source, commercial applications and services. These run seamlessly inside the network infrastructure, enabling organisations to deliver differentiated services, operational simplicity and cost savings, while proactively addressing ever-changing business needs. A significant focus of our technology strategy revolves around leveraging best-of-breed technology and open source applications to differentiate our networking solutions through innovation. This drives a significant change in the networking landscape towards open, flexible multi-vendor integration. Organisations should be able to customize their network according to their business needs to meet changing compliance requirements by deploying best-of-breed applications in a faster, cost effective and less complex manner. Applications and services tightly integrated within the network infrastructure can enable unparalleled flexibility, visibility and control of network traffic and application performance. The world is warming up to applications like OpenOffice and open standard operating systems like gOS the new Google operating system. More users and enterprises are now focusing on software that can provide high-level IT service for the lowest cost in terms of deployment and support. Where network services like security, voice, video and management functions are concerned, the same trend is emerging. Today, enterprise users can deploy enterprise class open source network services on servers to throttle bandwidth and provide denial of service mitigation. And, just as commercial firewall and VPN software have moved into appliances and then to the network switch fabric, the same is happening for open source network services as well. Network services are moving into the switch fabric because server-based services running on operating systems often lack performance; to overcome this, a growing number of dedicated high performance appliances are installed and the appliances start stacking up physically creating an appliance glut that is tough to manage. Environmentally friendly switches There is also a trend towards environmentally friendly networking products. An estimated two per cent of all carbon emissions originate from IT and networking equipment consumes 13 TWh (terawatt hours) of power per year. Networking can contribute to greater power savings. The IEEE is working on standardising an interoperable technique that involves reducing the transmission speed of a network link when it is not being fully utilised. For example: if utilisation of a 1Gb/s link is less than ten per cent, the link rate can be reduced to 100Mb/s then brought back up to 1Gb/s when the utilisation increases again. Since links rarely operate at their maximum capacity, five TWh of power a year could be saved in the US alone by universal adoption of this technique. This helps meet the demands of increased Internet usage in an environmentally friendly way. To meet the challenge of future network needs in an increasingly Internet-dependent world, switches must offer greater flexibility and scalability, a higher level of intelligence and the potential to integrate future applications. The networking industry is therefore heading towards using secure converged networks running over Internet Protocol. Three technology trends drive this change. The first involves using VoIP (voice over IP) for a wide range of applications such as WAN optimization and application acceleration. The second trend involves bringing more value to voice and other applications such as DBMS and ERP by driving them into network infrastructures. The third trend will involve virtualization of the networking environment to create a true on-demand ecosystem, utilising the Internet as a communications vehicle. Ultimately, end-users can exercise the power of the purse by insisting that network suppliers provide the open, standardized solutions that best enable them to meet the rising challenges of Internet usage.