As-needed networking rollouts pay off

Buying into the buzz of VoIP, Gigabit, and IPSes may result in less-than-optimal benefits

Networking buzzwords have had little impact on the core of most infrastructures in the past few years. Yet Gigabit, VoIP, and IPSes continue to receive attention, with many enterprises planning 2007 deployments. Unless absolutely necessary, however, these line items will prove to be bloated investments.

VoIP, for one, may be more of a gentle breaker caressing the shores of the infrastructure than the tidal wave vendors expect it to be. Pervasive adoption will occur, but companies will benefit by taking an as-needed approach to VoIP. High implementation costs and the established base of reliable PBXes have pushed VoIP into the “when possible” category — when an office moves to a new building or the existing PBX needs replacing. What’s more, many PBX vendors are backing VoIP into their systems, allowing VoIP phones to integrate with traditional phones, thereby facilitating branch- and remote-office rollouts without having to rip and replace all the way to the core.

The same goes for Gigabit to the desktop. Companies buy desktops equipped with Gigabit NICs but run them into 10/100 switches. There’s simply not enough need for the higher bandwidth to require every edge switch and uplink be upgraded. Companies not taking an as-needed approach to replacing 10/100 switches only when they age out are likely overspending on Gigabit.

Those shopping for an IPS in 2007 should keep in mind that many admins view the systems with skepticism. For one, their promise has yet to be realized. Worse, the systems often cause more problems than they solve. Virus and worm proliferation is certainly a pain point for every Windows shop, but the heavy configuration and maintenance requirements of most IPSes, not to mention the high cost of the solutions themselves, call into question the benefits of investment. Most companies would be better off funding the battle at the desktop and server level, rather than at the core or edge of the network, though that’s where it truly belongs.

But the primary place you’ll spend too much this year will be on egress bandwidth. There’s still a notable disconnect among bandwidth offerings from large ISPs, even with lower T1 and T3 pricing. Fractional T3 costs significantly more than the same-size pipe from a cable provider, although the generally asynchronous nature and lower support class of cable is not to be discounted. Either way, end-user complaints about bandwidth are a foregone conclusion. Just don’t spend too much thinking you can silence them.

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