Key Messages from IDC Directions 2012 for "The Intelligent Network" – Part 1

At it’s annual Directions 2012 conference,  market research firm IDC strongly stated that IT is on the cusp of a “Third Platform” that will dominate the  landscape till 2020 and beyond.  That 3rd platform consists of some mash up of: cloud computing, mobile broadband, mobile services/devices/platforms- OSs/apps, social networks, and big data/analytics.  Many or all of those technologies will be integrated or combined to offer new types of services to both business and personal IT end users. IDC predicts a CAGR of 15% for Third Platform IT spending through 2010 with a cumulative growth rate  of 70.4% (2013-’20).

Courtesy of IDCScale, community and competency will determine the Third Platform winners, according to IDC Chief Analyst Frank Gens.  How does this Third Platform intersect with other related developments in the continuing evolution of the end-to-end network (including wireless and wireline) and service architectures?  For example, what type of network will interconnect business end users and Cloud Service Provider data centers?  What distinguishes an on premises Data Center (and local area network) from a Cloud resident Data Center (and local area network)?  How will those cloud data centers be interconnected?  Will a new premise network architecture be required?  How will mobile access to cloud services provide the necessary QoS/SLAs (especially latency) and ensure adequate security/privacy?

This author has tried to address many of these questions, especially concerning cloud networking, in previous articles. This article will focus exclusively on what IDC analysts had to say about the network.  We will focus on the converged premises network in part 1 and next generation mobile networks in part 2.  Those NexGen Mobile networks must be re-architected to solve the congestion dilemma caused by the expected capacity crunch from the explosive growth in mobile data traffic.  IDC (as well as this author) does not believe tiered pricing coupled with throttling heavy mobile data users will solve the wireless network capacity crunch.   Proposed solutions to the capacity crunch, including access network and backhaul, will be addressed in the second article on IDC Directions 2012.

Let us first examine the impact of Cloud Computing and evolution of the Data Center as per Matt Eastwood’s excellent presentation, “Cloud Proofing the Next-Gen Enterprise Infrastructure – Understanding Converged System Needs.” A recent IDC survey determined that enterprise IT spending is shifting.  They found that:

  • Enterprises see private clouds+ as their onramp to cloud computing  for the next 24 months (assume they don’t believe public clouds can deliver performance & security guarantees)
  • Automation and elasticity will become the new mantra
  • Pre-integrated modularity will become critical

+ Note: Private cloud can be either implemented on site or hosted off site by a 3rd party cloud service provider. Virtualization is the foundation platform for the Data Center:

  • VM [Virtual Machine] deployment will be robust but physical server growth will be conservative over next 5 years
  • VM densities will increase 25% from 2010 to 2015
  • Rapid rise in VMs and mobility is forcing customers to rethink infrastructure requirements

IDC believes that a converged Infrastructure is the foundation for cloud computing.  Companies are virtualizing servers, automating processes, converging technologies in the data center and adopting private clouds to facilitate “self service IT.” A Converged System was said to include the following pool of IT assets:

  • Compute
  • Storage
  • Network
  • Infrastructure Management

Author’s Note:  There may be separate networks for compute and storage, e.g. 1G/10G/40G Ethernet for interconnection of compute (data) servers and switches as well as switch to switch interconnection in the Data Center.  Fiber Channel used to interconnect Storage servers and switches.

IDC defines an Integrated System as a common pool of IT assets that includes:

  • Middleware, Database, Device Tools
  • Hardware and software assets tuned for service
  • BA, OLTP, DW, Business Intelligence, Collaborative Computing

Final thoughts from IDC analyst Matt Eastwood:

  • CIOs pay attention to time, money and people
  • Downturns drive inflections and change on recovery
  • Workloads are the critical pivot point for cloud and convergence decisions
  • Many political barriers remain in Washington, D.C.
  • User demographics change constantly

Cloud Delivery for the Mobile Enterprise- the increasing relevance of intelligent network infrastructures

Courtesy of IDC
Courtesy of IDC

IDC analyst Rohit Mehra* said that consumer mobile devices are already in the enterprise; and their use is growing.  This phenomenon is often referred to as BYoD or Bring Your own Device (to work).  IDC expects that 41% of devices used to access business applications in 2012 will be Employee-Owned Devices (vs. Company-Owned Devices)!  That’s up 10% from 2011.

While BYOD will proliferate, corporate owned mobile devices will grow as well, according to Mehra. In particular, media tablets are being used more and more to gain access and legitimacy for enterprise apps. The network’s role in enterprise IT infrastructure continues to grow as Network Intelligence becomes strategic to the business.  IDC forecasts a huge rise in connecting mobile applications to cloud services.  More than 83% of enterprise companies have already rolled out or plan to deploy mobile cloud based applications in the next 12-18 months, The Enterprise Network was positioned as a “Vital Link between Two Rising Tides:”

  1. Cloud, Converged Infrastructure and the Datacenter
  2. Mobile access and the mobile edge network (including the mobile packet core)

Obviously, application access and delivery is dependent on underlying network, which may not be robust or have the necessary performance for many cloud based services or applications (especially over a best effort, shared wireless or wireline network). IDC believes that video continues to be a challenge for the network.  Specific concerns are:

  • Bandwidth Limitations
  • Inconsistency of bandwidth available across organizations
  • Costs to upgrade
  • Video Performance
    • Brand image
    • Hinder success of IT investment
  • Security
    • Keeping enterprise video off the Internet
    • Keep access off-limits for users with undesirable or malicious intent
Courtesy of IDC
Courtesy of IDC

IDC believes the network is an integral part of IT Infrastructure.  Here’s a list of attributes needed for a converged, robust network that delivers applications and cloud based services:

  • Secure, reliable, predictable architecture for business applications
  • Enforce corporate policies and regulatory mandates
  • Intelligent delivery decisions on network traffic
  • Optimization, acceleration, security, visibility, load balancing
  • Shared services layer with unification of performance management
  • Consolidated and coordinated application delivery policies

Advent of Software Defined Networking (SDN) was seen as an emerging trend by Mr. Mehra:

  • Dynamic exchange between applications and the network
  • Delivering programmable interfaces to the network
  • Management abstraction of the topology
  • Separation of control and transport functions
  • Examples include OpenFlow, but Mr. Mehra cautioned, “OpenFlow, at its core, remains a Twitter topic,” meaning it’s not mainstream yet.

The IDC analyst believes that Cloud-based Networking is emerging and asked, “Will it cause disruption or evolution?”

  • Emerging network and services offering that leverages cloud-capabilities
  • “Network as a Service” model that can apply to routers, WLAN, UC, app delivery, etc.
  • Network provisioning, configuration, and management

IDC says here is what to look for in 2012 from the enterprise networking industry and network service providers:

  • Emerging vendors will leverage cloud to be disruptive
  • Incumbents will see the value and will make appropriate portfolio adjustments
  • Managed Service Providers will adapt and embrace the cloud and not compete with it

And here are Mr. Mehra’s final thoughts:

  • The intelligent economy requires intelligent IT Infrastructure, and that includes the network
  • The network is a vital link between mobility and the cloud
  • Network Intelligence will proliferate and become strategic
  • Will extend from apps to network silicon to management/provisioning
  • Flexibility and visibility is the key to the network supporting today’s and tomorrow’s applications
  • For networking vendors, application alignment can help increase the competitiveness of your portfolio


This author believes the IDC analysts are way too optimistic on cloud adoption.  Key unresolved cloud computing  issues include secuity, WAN performance, failure recovery and privacy.  Also, the mobile enterprise has no wireless QoS/SLAs and won’t have them for a long time.  Roaming may also be a problem for mobile workers wishing to access cloud services and applications.  And there are no accepted standards for Cloud Service APIs, User to Network Interface (UNI), Network to Network Interface (NNI), Cloud Service orchestration, and Federation/ Identiy Management.  Therefore, the big move to cloud will take longer than most pundits think.  However, this author agrees with IDC that  Private Cloud will be the “on ramp” for most large customers wishing to access any of the Cloud Services (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, CaaS, etc).

*  Rohit Mehra is IDC’s Director of Enterprise Communications Infrastructure, and the lead analyst for enterprise switching, routing, wireless, voice and network management. He provides expert insight and analysis into industry and technology trends as they relate to enterprise networking and related areas of data, voice, wireless and security. In this capacity, he is responsible for market share and forecast reports as well as global go-to-market strategies. Mr. Mehra also assists clients with custom consulting and research, including user surveys and buyer case studies.   This author has heard Mr. Mehra speak several times and has a great deal of respect for his insights into enterprise network infrastructure.

0 thoughts on “Key Messages from IDC Directions 2012 for "The Intelligent Network" – Part 1

  1. Thanks for an excellent article capturing major trends in IT, according to IDC Directions 2012 speakers. However, the IDC Analysts always seem to use “buzz phrases” without defining them. They sound good but have ambiguous meanings.
    For example:
    “Pre-integrated modularity”
    “Converged Infrastructure”
    “application alignment”
    “predictable architecture for business applications”

    What do these and other glib terms actually mean and what’s their impact on implementation of the 3rd platform by enterprise IT departments?

  2. Thanks for the well-written article on this topic.

    One of the most interesting things is that IT is adapting to the concept of “Bring Your Own Device” to work. It is quite a paradigm shift for IT groups to not only condone, but embrace personal devices by allowing them to work with corporate IT applications.

    Still, there are a subset of people who prefer to keep personal and business content on physically separate devices. This has to be a pain, but I was reminded of this last week when I saw someone carrying two devices; one for personal and one for work. There are definite advantages to that approach, such as not losing one’s email if the work relationship ever changes.

    Granted, through the use of the cloud, a person could accomplish the same sort of thing (assuming corporate firewalls don’t block access to the public cloud).

    1. Thanks Ken. Here’s what one pundit said about the pitfalls of BYoD to work: “As consumerization takes hold, we’re facing a potential squeeze between enterprise networks and cellular data networks. If enterprise networks don’t keep pace, users are going to turn to mobile network operators, even for using their devices within the workplace. Encouraging users to “bring your own device” may end up costing you more in the form of ballooning wireless bills or infrastructure upgrades.”

      My take is that if BYoD continues apace, employees will be watching You Tube videos, checking FB, LI and Twitter and doing all sorts of other non work related tasks on their mobile gadgets, smart phones, media tablets. If they use the corp WiFi network for those, care must be taken by corp IT managers to prevent this, else that network will be very congested.

      1. Yeah, ESPN usage and other sports programming (e.g. March Madness) drives huge demand for video in the workplace; a challenge for these sports programmers is that it is difficult to measure eyeballs via traditional means (e.g. Nielsen). As a result, the content owners aren’t necessarily able to present the full picture of their audience to advertisers and they feel they are leaving money on the table.

        It will be interesting to see if corporations become more aggressive about blocking these sort of bandwidth hog applications, forcing the BYoD people to watch video programming on cell networks, which, as you point out, will lead to the sticker shock. Some are already finding with the latest iPad and the 4G speeds that allow users to burn through their data caps in as little as 32 minutes:,2817,2401932,00.asp

  3. Converged Enterprise Networks will need more WAN Bandwidth!

    There are several trends coming together that will necessitate an urgent need for corporations to increase WAN bandwidth and use packet technologies (rather than TDM):

    -More real time and archived video communications, especially video conferencing and telepresence

    -Access to remote, Cloud resident Data Centers for workloads and storage (but not mission critical data)

    -Access to big data/ analytics that’s remotely hosted by data analytics firms

    -BYoD (Bring Your own Device to work) phenomenon will require upgraded WiFi and higher speed wireline Internet connections

    The two most popular WAN solutions to these new requirements are: Business Class Carrier Ethernet (EoCopper and EoFiber) and IP-MPLS VPN. Carrier Ethernet is available in several configurations, including point to point, point to multipoint (Ethernet Virtual Private Line), and mutlipoint to multipoint (Ethernet Virtual Private LAN). For reference, please see:

    XO Communications offers all of these business class telecom services to SMBs. For further information, please contact: Mike Weiss in XOs Fremont, CA office: Thanks!

    1. Agree with the above comment, but I think inter-networking needs more attention. Any upgraded enterprise WAN needs to be compatible with the services delivered. For example, if you have a carrier Ethernet (L2 controlled) WAN, you won’t be able to easily access an IP-MPLS private network or VPN (L3 controlled).

      Can XO (or other long distance telco) offer a conversion between one type of WAN and another?

      And what do we do about the mobile workforce with their newly armed iPADs? What type of wireless network will they use to access the corporate/ enterprise network and cloud services from a variety of providers?

    1. Part 2 will be published this weekend. Wanted to wait for readers to think about the implications of part 1. Note comments above on BYoD, Need for higher speed enterprise WANs and inter-networking concerns.

  4. How to do inter-networking between cloud service providers using different WAN technologies, e.g. private cloud bursting to public cloud? Or Private/Public Cloud provider A- to Private/Public Cloud Provider B, etc, etc?

    1. I’ve asked the same type of questions about Cloud Networking- UNI as well as the various types of NNI’s you refer to. Never get a straight answer. Also asked IDC Analyst Rohit Mehra to comment on this article or reply to readers comments. Sadly, he has chosen to ignore my requests.

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