Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

How Big Data and Cloud Computing Are Pushing Networks to the Brink

A lot is expected of corporate networks these days. Companies are trying to add new services and support new devices. There’s always more data that has to keep flowing, more stuff being connected to it. And the network is expected to perform, no matter what. Now there are about five billion devices connected to the Internet and billions of individual users, all expecting their networks to perform.

The folks at Juniper Networks started to wonder if the world of networking has reached some kind of fundamental inflection point. They got together with the people at Forrester Research and surveyed 150 senior IT executives to try to get a better handle on how big trends facing the enterprise, like cloud computing and big data, are affecting enterprise networks.

The findings are kind of interesting and sort of troubling. While cloud computing and software-as-a-service products such as Salesforce.com tend to save money and time by taking dedicated hardware and software out of the equation, using them puts new demands on the network: 58 percent of those surveyed said cloud services had added enough demand to their networks that they had to upgrade the networking hardware.

Cloud services tend to go hand in hand with an increased usage of mobile devices: 47 percent of businesses have seen increased demand from employees bringing their own devices to work.

The complications for networks have grown past the point where you can simply add more bandwidth and hope for the best. The survey found that 86 percent of the companies in the survey have not been unable to spin up new services or support certain business demands, because their networks were simply not up to the task. Another 74 percent reported that their networks had become complex, while 35 said their networks had become “too rigid to manage.”

So that leaves IT organizations at a point where networks are under more demand than ever, and less able to meet those demands. It can’t go on like that. “We’re reaching the point where the effectiveness of networks is inversely proportional to the volume of information they contain,” Juniper CIO Bask Iyer told me last week.

The solution is to make sure that all the bits used to build the network work together well. The old way — running networks mainly by just adding more bandwidth — won’t get the job done, Iyer says. The network has to be built with overarching business objectives in mind, with teams that are usually separate — security, manufacturing, quality control — getting more intimately involved with building the network than they have been before. Naturally, that’s the opening for a larger discussion about the implications of the research. And, of course, Juniper is holding a Web event later today to explain what it means.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald