As cloud computing, big data and the deployment of mega-scale data centers accelerates, organizations need to continually recalibrate and evolve the network. This challenge has led to the development of new technologies and standards designed to increase and optimize network capacity, security and flexibility, all while keeping a lid on cost. Here are the top five trends as we see them:
* Rapid Adoption of 802.11ac. Tablets and smartphones are becoming ubiquitous in the workplace. As the number of mobile devices and the deployment of cloud-based enterprise services continues to scale at a dramatic rate, the keepers of the network must reconsider how they provision, secure and control enterprise computing resources and information access.
IEEE 802.11ac is 3x faster and 6x more power efficient than its predecessor, 802.11n, while remaining interoperable with 802.11n as well as legacy 802.11b/g/a air interfaces. According to recent data from Infonetics, sales of 802.11ac access points are up almost 10-fold over the past year. This has only increased the pressure on enterprise technical officers to better manage and secure their network connection points.
* 2.5G and 5Gbps in the Wiring Closet. As Wave 2 of 802.11ac Wi-Fi rolls out, traffic rates through access points will surpass multiple gigabits per second, requiring both the access point and the Ethernet switch ports to scale beyond 1000 Base-T (1G). However, with literally millions of feet of installed Category 5e/Category 6 cabling, enterprise operators are looking to fill the gap between 1G and 10G over this legacy unshielded twisted-pair copper cabling. (Also read: Shopping for 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi? Don't rush into it.)
The Wave 2 addendum to the original 802.11ac wireless specification will usher in multi-user MIMO antenna technology and other advancements to help increase theoretically maximum wireless speeds to 6.93Gbps. This has created opportunity for faster Ethernet speeds and a fast upgrade cycle to 2.5G and 5G, versus the 10x speed upgrade path typical of Ethernet. While new installs will be wisely using Cat 6A cable to enable 10G, most of the legacy installed base will stay with 1Gbps or adopt 2.5G/5Gbps when they need an uplink rate of greater than 1Gbps.
While multiple industry proposals exist to enable 2.5G/5Gbps over existing Cat56/Cat6 cables, the industry needs to get behind a single standard to avoid confusion and non-interoperability among different solutions. This could potentially adversely affect the potential success of this emerging market. The good news is the IEEE 802.3 standards body is focused on bringing multi-rate Gigabit Ethernet BASE-T to enterprise access points via a 2.5G and 5G proposal.
The emphasis is on achieving this near term and over current Cat 5e (2.5G over 100m) and Cat 6 (5G over 100m) installed cable. Given the limited bandwidth, the obvious route to achieving this is to use higher modulation schemes.
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