Networks: The digital backbone of tomorrow’s technology

  • Big data, IoT, BYOD and other trends will ride on the wide area network
  • In today’s tech world, the network is the digital backbone of modern businesses

Networks: The digital backbone of tomorrow’s technologyMUCH virtual ink had been expended on emerging and dominant technologies in 2014. Even till today, the debate rages on: Analysts continue to weigh security, privacy and financial concerns against the business benefits of big data and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).
 
Elsewhere, like-minded experts are discussing similar fears, while advocates for the Internet of Things (IoT) tout its advantages.
 
However, one key component that has not received due attention from this discourse is the underlying network.
 
Whether it comes in the form of a wired connection or WiFi, the Wide Area Network (WAN) is perhaps the only one indispensable factor that big data, BYOD and IoT have in common.
 
Adoption for these technologies show no signs of slowing down, so they will continue to contribute massively to the modern data deluge and exert further pressure on the enterprise network.
 
In order to get a better understanding of just how important quality networks, stable connectivity and unabated transfer rates are, we must first understand how each technology interacts with and impacts the network.
 
Big data: Information and network overload?

Networks: The digital backbone of tomorrow’s technology

A quick peek into research company Gartner’s glossary reveals what constitutes big data. Big data is “high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making.”
 
In layman terms, big data is processing and analysing monstrous quantities of fast-flowing raw information to ultimately gain business intelligence.
 
For the longest time, big data has been dominating the headlines of newspapers and conversations in the boardroom.
 
Now, Asia Pacific is finally gearing up for it. A Gartner report predicts that 960,000 IT jobs will be created in the region to support big data by 2015. Furthermore, each big data-related role will spawn employment for three people outside of IT, making it a total of four million jobs in Asia Pacific alone.
 
However, while more help is on the way, enterprise IT professionals face significant challenges when dealing with moving this data over distance.
 
The increasing volume and velocity of data transfers between long distance locations has become a focal point. The required aggregation of data for analytics, as well as the backup and replication of that data, means IT professionals must content with bandwidth and other network issues.
 
BYOD: Not always used for work!
 
Research firm IDC defines BYOD as “devices that users have personally purchased with their own funds, without help from the employer. The employer is not obligated to subsidise any part of the device nor is it responsible for supporting the devices’ hardware and software.”
 
According to IDC, companies in Asia Pacific have increasingly opened up BYOD over the past year and this trend is forecasted to spill over into 2015.
 
Approximately 60% of organisations polled across the region already have some form of mobility policy for BYOD. While policies differ from workplace to workplace, most companies are not draconian about the number of devices and connections each employee is entitled to have.
 
On the flip side, the generous amount of autonomy given to staff spells trouble for the corporate network.
 
Countless horror stories have surfaced about how employees leech company bandwidth for personal use, most commonly associated with streaming videos.
 
As a result, the quality of the network may suffer and overall productivity can be reduced – as business application performance degrades when sharing the network with un-sanctioned use.
 
IoT: Driving different demands

Networks: The digital backbone of tomorrow’s technology

What exactly is an IoT device? IDC defines an IoT device as a “uniquely identifiable device with its own IP address that connects over a network to transfer or retrieve information.” An IoT device can be anything from a wearable computer to an eBook reader to a surveillance camera.
 
IDC projects the IoT market to grow by more than US$5 trillion over the next six years to reach US$7.1 trillion before 2020.
 
Additionally, research firm Machina Research reports that the number of connected devices will grow to 24 billion by 2020. Within that pool, mobile connected devices will double from more than 6.5 billion today to more than 12 billion by 2020.
 
Although each IoT device may not consume a significant amount of bandwidth – since they have different needs and specifications depending on their application – the combined total of these devices and their connections can overwhelm networks.
 
With these smart devices forecasted to further proliferate, they collectively can impact the WAN, especially when the WAN does not have the scalable capacity to handle the influx of data and network traffic.
 
WAN: Keeping it top of mind
 
In today’s technologically-driven and interconnected world, the network is the digital backbone of most, if not all, modern businesses.
 
Yes, big data, BYOD and the IoT may hold the key to making more accurate forecasts, improving tomorrow’s workforce or disrupting the way we live in the future.
 
However, such technology – no matter how advanced they become – will continue to rely on the WAN.
 
Tricia Png is director of Asia at WAN optimisation company Silver Peak Systems.
 
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