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Cloudy challenge looms over networking

Gearing up for growth

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This cloud computing thing has legs. The announcements from the Build conference confirms what we have known for a while: that Microsoft has bet the farm on it.

Intel is in on it. VMware and Red Hat are fighting for their chunks. You can’t throw a proverbial rock anywhere in Silicon Valley without hitting someone whose livelihood doesn’t in some way depend on cloud computing.

That’s a problem for me.

Cloud computing is all about flexibility, dynamic this, upgradable that, obfuscation of hardware, abstraction of operating systems and making limited resources seem infinite.

Cheap thrills

If you work for a shop that is willing to consider publicly hosted cloud services, all of this is simply "someone else’s problem”.

But working for a shop that adamantly rejects the idea, is gun-shy about purchasing new gear, and furthermore expects you to provide better service than Amazon, is challenging. It is not impossible to deliver under these circumstances, but it often feels so.

With the exception of a few corner cases, processors are fast enough (and have enough cores) to suit everyone’s needs. RAM is dirt cheap, and for the second time in a row, Microsoft is delivering a Windows operating system that requires less RAM than the one before.

Storage costs have recently done that plummeting thing – and cheaper drives means more of them Raid-ed together provide even greater throughput.

What is left is networking. The cost of the servers to accomplish a given task has dropped so precipitously that most networks are at or near capacity, so this is where many refresh budgets will go.

Population trends

It makes sense. There are currently about two billion people online: a 580 per cent growth rate over the past decade. The changes this has brought are demonstrable.

One is the way we deal with data. Frequent losses of sensitive data has caused a rethink about the advisability of carrying such information around with us.

We are all relying on networks to deliver our data to us everywhere

We have stopped storing things locally. Accessing them elsewhere can be a pain so we rely instead on easy-to-use cloud storage offerings.

We have even stopped bothering to remember trivial things because we know where we can look them up.

We have become utterly reliant upon always-on connectivity. In other words, we are all relying on networks to deliver our data to us everywhere, and quickly.

No need for tablets

The grand push to get the next billion online is well underway, but these are the people who don’t have PCs or notebooks. They have never been given a need for them. Their connectivity will be entirely mobile: smartphones and tablets acting as thin clients to cloud-delivered services.

This makes your ability to deliver data – both internally to your own users and externally to customers – more critical than ever. And the demands on that data delivery (both storage and networking) will for most of us grow faster than the demands on processing resources.

Can your network deliver 580 per cent growth or more over the next ten years?

If not, it might be time to carefully re-examine your next round of systems and networking refresh plans. ®

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