THE spread of mobile devices, desktop virtualisation, and the need for greater collaboration is transforming the campus LAN (local area network) requirement.
Users now need to access services delivered over the cloud, business video, and front-office applications with high performance and reliability.
End users are increasingly relying on delivery to devices anywhere, anytime, including from consumer devices.
Every link in the enterprise network has therefore become mission-critical, and this includes the campus LAN "last mile."
Traditional campus LANs were designed to link desktop workers for client/server applications access.
This type of traffic wasn't bandwidth-intensive or sensitive to delays, and IT managers didn't need to closely integrate wired and wireless campus LAN infrastructures.
And security was often a secondary consideration, as guest network access usually wasn't a factor.
IT managers also tended to install capacity for traditional LANs, that wouldn't be needed until a later date, and LAN evolution was handled organically.
This usually resulted in the deployment of a wide range of hardware and network operating systems, with devices such as switches and routers being handled device-by-device in an overly-expensive, time-consuming and error-prone way.
Today, however, enterprises need their campus network design to be cloud-ready and provide fault-tolerant and high-performance networking, while offering simplified deployment, automated management and resiliency.
According to IDC, there will be 1.2 billion mobile workers by next year, and this will result in many IT organisations struggling to support growth in mobile employees, complicated by the recent trend to bring your own device (BYOD) to work.
Cloud computing will grow significantly in the next five years also. Public IT cloud services will reach US$72.9bil (RM218.7bil) in 2015 - a compound annual growth rate CAGR) of 27.6%, according to IDC.
By 2015, US$1 in every US$7 spent on packaged software, server, and storage offerings will be through the public cloud model. Many organisations have already started datacentre consolidation to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and provide dynamic resource provisioning.
There's also growing interest in desktop virtualisation. Over one-third of IT organisations polled for the 2011 Cloud Networking Report have already virtualised up to 25% of their desktops, and this is expected to rise to more than half in the next year.
The report also said that almost 80% will increase their use of video, often substantially.
According to research carried out by IDC, only 31% of IT managers expect their network to meet performance requirements in the next 12 months.
Lack of network bandwidth is limiting the ability of organisations to adopt collaboration solutions and unified communications.
The requirement is now for campus LAN solutions with levels of performance, resiliency, and management that were only previously found in high-end solutions designed for datacentres and the network core.
They need technology that delivers constant availability across both wired and wireless networks, with end-to-end resiliency and device-level and networklevel high availability, with capacities for hitless failover, hot switch-replacement within the stack, and redundant uplinks.
But customers need these solutions to meet current requirements at a relatively low-cost with minimal complexity, while providing investment protection for an easy transition to supporting mobile workers, desktop virtualisation and collaboration.
The ability to stack and mix-and-match LAN switches at both the access and aggregation tiers of the architecture, is one way vendors can help IT organisations easily scale their campus LANs.
This means the organisation can add ports as needed without adding management complexity.
The ability to manage the entire campus as one logical chassis with software technology means advanced features and services of premium switches can be propagated to all switches in the stack.
Customers will only need to purchase what's needed today while being able to add advanced features when required.
Policies and services can be automatically pushed across the entire campus from a single point, enabling real-time scaling without manual configuration.
Brocade is aiming to meet these requirements, with a consultative approach and HyperEdge software designed to provide mission-critical levels of uptime and function in a family of edge and aggregation products.
This is so that organisations can benefit from campus edge refreshes, reduced maintenance costs and enjoy pay-as-you-grow options that provide greater levels of investment protection than those provided by other solutions.
(Sean Ong is country manager for Malaysia at Brocade Communications Systems, a networking solutions vendor.)