Cutting-edge devices require cutting-edge networks

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few months, you will know that the iPad and iPhone 4 – the latest devices to revolutionize the mobile experience – are being lapped up by the public. Apple reported sales of two million iPad in the 60 days and if predictions are right, millions more people will experience an entirely new way to work, share, communicate and access information.

With the focus being on the new devices, the fact that they place even more stress on the already hard-pressed network has been largely overlooked. This explosion of connected devices has ignited a bandwidth battle that will only get worse.

At Juniper, we are deeply concerned.  The network as it is constructed simply can’t handle the demands being placed on it.  While people continue to talk about the hottest new device or the budding economy around developing new apps for those devices, it’s well worth examining the back-end infrastructure they operate on.  

Even though the world has seen unprecedented innovation in computing, applications and devices over the last five years, the basic approach to the network supporting this innovation has gone unchanged.  The old method of adding new hardware to make incremental processing capacity is a band-aid approach and one that won’t solve the problems of the coming decade.

Hardware alone cannot scale to meet the demand created by new devices and computing methods.  It creates additional complexity, locks customers into a repressive upgrade path that benefits technology vendors only and merely delays meeting networking challenges head-on until another day.

This lack of innovation has also hurt the consumer experience and is negatively impacting the economics for service providers and enterprises.  Customers expect instant access to data, no matter where they are.  This demand for speed – and all-you-can-eat data plans many providers use to acquire customers – will bring the network to a grinding halt.

Things need to change quickly. We are advocating a different approach to networking in which openness and innovation are the enablers that will help service providers meet the demands of their customers while also improving the economics of running the network.

At the moment, service providers, both fixed and mobile, are under pressure to upgrade their networks to meet consumer demand while others are reaping most of the reward.  Innovation and new partnerships can, however, take advantage of the changing landscape. I would certainly be willing to pay for a better HD experience, or for a managed backup, or other relevant cloud-based services that could certainly open up new revenue streams.

The network is not the only challenge. Rapidly expanding pools of data are hosted increasingly along with services and computing in the cloud. The flood of digital media aimed at the new mobile platform is expanding these pools into lakes and now super data centers are being designed to accommodate oceans of data.
How these super datacenters are built, their resources virtualized and their use orchestrated, is one of the hottest engineering topics around.  Ask someone this week to define the term “cloud”, then ask again next week and you might well get a different answer; it’s moving that fast.

All of these threads have one thing in common: change, and change on a large scale.  There is a network revolution taking place and it's happening now.  To build this new network is exciting, and to do it, to pull together all these pieces and make them work together well, we need the right glue.
The next decade will be both challenging and exciting for everyone involved in telecoms, with the most innovative coming into their own. New network technology will advance the economics of networking, enabling IT to build the highly available communication infrastructure needed to meet the demands of today’s consumers.

Today’s bandwidth-hungry consumers are changing the landscape forever.  So the next time you are talking about that hot new device (or the one after that or the one after that), think about ditching the legacy network approach and adopting the new network.

Matt Kolonis Juniper's VP for the service provider sector is Asia Pacific
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