One of my panels today explored the need for IT organizations to rethink their LAN strategy. The four panelists were Manfred Arndt of HP, Jeff Prince of Consentry, Barry Cioe of Enterasys and Kumar Srikantan of Cisco. These are four leaders in our industry and I was very pleased to have them on the panel.
It should not come as a surprise to any of you that all four panelists were of the opinion that IT organizations need to deploy LAN switching functionality that is different from what was deployed just a few years ago. For example, Prince stated his belief that LAN access switches need to be able to natively understand context and use that for myriad purposes, including providing more flexible security. Cioe suggested that the movement to SaaS and cloud computing drives the need for visibility and control beyond Layer 4 in order to understand transactions and prevent the leak of intellectual property or confidential content. Arndt discussed how the growing movement to implement unified communications drives the need for technology such as Power over Ethernet (POE), POE Plus with intelligent power management and multi-user network access protection (NAP) based on 802.1X. Srikantan talked about how the next generation of LAN switching is characterized by base hardware (i.e., Gig Access w/ POE Plus), base services (i.e., L2 and routed access), enhanced services (i.e., MPLS and IP SLA), service modules (i.e., server balancing and firewalls) and investment protection; i.e., 7 to 10 year lifecycle and incremental upgrades.
I buy off on one of Srikantan’s key points – that being that the LAN switches that IT organizations deploy need to have a 7 to 10 year lifecycle and be able to also support incremental upgrades. I also believe that access switches need to be intelligent enough to support applications such as unified communications and also support the evolving security requirements. One last point that I buy off on is that the data center LAN needs to evolve in order to support the highly consolidated, highly virtualized data centers that many large companies are on the road to implementing. At this point in time, however, I don’t have a good handle on what I think the new data center LAN needs to look like. That is still a work in progress.