Top Networking Trends of 2013: The Good, The Bad

By Jack Rosenberger  |  Posted 11-07-2013
Man fixing server, data center

Top Networking Trends of 2013: The Good, The Bad

By Jack Rosenberger

The top networking trends of 2013 include larger budgets, the continued rollout and expansion of wireless networks, and the return of security as the top pain point for network managers, according to the new TheInfoPro’s Networking Study. Other hot topics include unified communications, network access control and the rollout of mobile device management solutions.

Published by 451 Research, TheInfoPro’s Network Study is based on 155 in-depth interviews with IT professionals and other key decision-makers at medium and large enterprises.

Among the study’s trends are:

  • 38 percent of respondents plan to increase spending in 2014, while 27 percent plan to decrease spending;
  • Security (22 percent) is the top networking pain point, followed by capacity (19 percent), budget (18 percent), network monitoring (13 percent) and wireless (12 percent);
  • Wireless rollout, expansion and upgrade (25 percent) is the top networking project, followed by core upgrade (14 percent), switch upgrade (14 percent), technology refresh (12 percent) and data center expansion (12 percent).

The report’s author, Daniel Kennedy, research director for networking and information security, spoke with CIO Insight about the study, software-defined networking, CIOs and IT project approval, and networking security and budget advice.

What does this study mean for CIOs?
"In general, for me, having previously been a CSO at a hedge fund, the study validates a lot of decision-making. At trade shows and conferences, you hear about what you should be doing 1-2 years down the road and, with vendors, the information you receive is appropriately self-serving, but this study is useful because it can provide validation for CIOs’ decision-making. If you’re thinking about implementing unified communications, this study enables you to say, ‘We also need to be implementing unified communications because half of the companies our size are doing it.’ "

Which results surprised you?
"I was a little surprised by the growth of wireless. I had thought wireless’s growth would abate, but it won’t this year or next year. CIOs will be investing in everything wireless, from inventory controls to meat-and-potatoes networking gear. I was curious to see how enterprises are adopting software-defined networking (SDN). The adoption rate is low, with most enterprises waiting to see how their provider, primarily Juniper and Cisco, will package SDN. What is the tipping point? Presently, we have a few firms doing SDN implementation. I don’t see the tipping point happening in 2014, but we’ll see higher adoption in 2015."

Security remains a top networking issue. What’s your security advice for enterprises?
"Some aspect of information security will always be in catch-up mode, and that isn't unreasonable; people will invest in creating a problem before anyone invests in creating a solution. This year was one of incredible growth for Mobile Device Management (MDM) in reaction to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Where this goes next year is worth watching. Certainly, some of the usability limits of MDM are becoming apparent to those we interviewed, who are now seeking better protections around the data itself. Will MDM providers with their early lead become like anti-virus and begin to offer complementary solutions? Which alternate mobile security options will take hold?

“I am concerned about the double-edged sword of compliance. Demonstrated compliance should be the output of a successful security program, not its primary input. Operationally, security is fairly weak in many organizations, based largely around resource constraints and finding the right talent. I remain concerned that, organizationally, the lead security manager is rarely senior enough to be a strategic leader within these firms, leading to incredible difficulties not in getting funding but getting the right projects funded based on the risk profile of the firm."

Top Networking Trends of 2013: The Good, The Bad

In terms of networking, what should CIOs be doing that they’re not doing? 
"I think it is difficult for IT to accurately show ROI for the technically complex meat-and-potatoes work they do every day, upgrading equipment and the like. There is some fuzzy math involved many times in creating an individual ROI for technology investments; we have to work on generating a better balance between appropriate communication with our business counterparts and moving forward with a strong security strategy. The business side shouldn't need to approve every IT project; there has to be some reliance on the technical sophistication and proper decision-making of the CIO."

Do you have any networking budget advice for CIOs?
"Yes, CIOs need to increase their budget in order to be competitive. Cost containment is always important, but it is not the key issue now. During the economic downturn the cost-cutters made their hay, but in general it's a career-limiting move. As a CIO, you have to deliver value.

"CIOs need to concentrate on their core investments. Networking equipment is only good for five years. You need general refreshes, like core upgrades. Also, CIOs need to look at wireless, unified communications and videoconferencing, if they’re not doing so already. You have to get behind these three technologies and demonstrate how they can enable the business."

About the Author

Jack Rosenberger is the managing editor of CIO Insight. You can follow him on Twitter via @CIOInsight. You can read his previous CIO Insight article, “Turning Ideas Into Innovations,” by clicking here.