Why CIOs need to prepare for the multi-gigabit era now

The technology industry has a capacity problem. Organisations are carrying out more business-critical processes in the network, and as a result, the technology needs to be high-performance enough to handle these demands. Over the past few years there have been several exciting new applications emerging onto the market that are transforming enterprises from manufacturing to financial services. However, for these businesses to fully embrace any of these solutions, they need to have multi-gigabit connectivity.

Today, most enterprise switches are equipped with 1GbE access ports. This is sufficient as it is the standard for all end-user devices from printers to access points. But as the demand for connectivity increases, so does the need for higher aggregated performance. We are currently experiencing a perfect storm of more users with more devices, combined with an increasing reliance on wireless connections and cloud-based applications. The response to this has been the development and launch of WiFi6 in the latter part of 2018. But this has also created a problem. With WiFi6 speeds, a 1GbE access port will create a bottleneck. This necessitates a move to multi-gigabit connectivity.

The next generation of 100GbE connections need scalability, flexibility and security like never before. Aside from in a few specific use cases, the industry has struggled to understand how to make these claims a reality or provide the evidence to support claims about the revolutionary nature of their technologies.

Until now.

Divergent wireless developments

Wireless technology is progressing at an almost breakneck speed. Under pressure to accommodate increasing demands from a myriad of devices and critical business use cases, the industry has found new ways to innovate.

The problem is that these many use cases require different connectivity needs and different needs have resulted in diverse frequencies and standards. As use cases become even more divergent and technology companies create ever more sophisticated solutions, this is an issue that is only ever going to get worse.

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CIOs now have a lot on their plate. There’s the advent of WiFi6 and tackling the network management and traffic headache of numerous Internet of Things (IoT) devices. They’re waiting for 5G to be available, whilst also exploring the opportunities and challenges associated with new solutions such as private LTE. In short, there’s no lack of things that a CIO can and will be losing sleep over.

So how do we solve the problem?

Wired you care?

We live in a wireless world. When was the last time you searched for a cable when you wanted to connect to the internet? It feels like a relic from a distant era and when it comes to our expectations of technology today it might as well be.

It’s easy to ignore, but the wires still matter! Businesses that want to prepare themselves for the multi-gigabit era shouldn’t just reach for some shiny new WiFi6 access points, they need to start from the switches up. If you haven’t got the throughput available in your wired infrastructure, you can consider your digital transformation efforts on hold.

Putting pressure on the core

Enterprise businesses in particular are under pressure to make the move to multi-gigabit. Successfully leveraging technologies such as IoT and machine learning will be critical to remaining competitive and the recognition of this is reflected in the amount businesses are investing in such technologies, with forecasts suggesting that $745bn will be invested in IoT this year alone.

As it stands, the network infrastructure found in most businesses is inadequate to support new technologies. Without correcting this shortfall, enterprises won’t achieve a return on their investment from these next gen technologies.

Scale to win

CIOs face a challenge in that they need to bridge a gap between their current, impending and future network demands. IoT, machine learning and artificial intelligence are still in their infancy and will only become more sophisticated and more demanding on core networks. When choosing how to upgrade their network infrastructure today, CIOs need to ensure they do so with a solution that can scale for the future, thus protecting their investment.

Transitioning to multi-gigabit networks doesn’t have to necessitate whole infrastructure upgrades. There is no need for a solution to keep up with the proliferation of devices and advances in wireless technology to be expensive. By choosing scalable switches with advanced stacking capabilities that can work over existing fibre optic cables, businesses can get themselves multi-gigabit ready whilst protecting their investment and reducing power and cooling requirements, reducing the total cost of ownership even further.

Keep it simple…

One final consideration for CIOs in all of this is that as networks become more advanced, managing them doesn’t also become more complicated. In provisioning for multiple IoT standards, WiFi6 and LTE there is a danger that CIOs bury themselves and their teams under a time-consuming maelstrom of network issues magnified by a scale of BYOD. As is the case now, being able to manage networks through a single pane of glass will be critical to ensuring that CIOs eliminate network downtime and help the businesses they work for succeed in the multi-gigabit era.

Written by Steve Johnson, director Northern Europe at Ruckus Networks
Written by Steve Johnson, director Northern Europe at Ruckus Networks

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