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The impact of video, the push to go to the cloud, the rise of MPLS and Quality of Services, the changing network architecture and the ever growing demand for bandwidth: Ettienne Reinecke, Chief Technology Officer at service provider Dimension Data, gives a situation report on corporate networks and investigate what is important for your organisation. "I don’t know a single company that says it has enough bandwidth."
Who is Ettienne Reinecke?
Ettienne Reinecke came to Dimension Data in 1991 and was named Chief Technology Officer seven years later. He is in charge of new technology and research for the South African IT group. Dimension Data is a network specialist and integrator present in approximately sixty countries, including Belgium.
"Personally, I think that the fixed network has always been important,’ says Reinecke at the beginning of our interview. "What it is really about is the services provided on top of the network. The push for network services, such as Software as a Service, ensures that fixed networks are coming to the forefront. This brings some big challenges and major consequences with it."
What are the consequences of these network services?
Ettienne Reinecke: "There is greater demand for MPLS networks, especially because they provide support in the area of Quality of Services (QoS). They can be used to give certain data traffic priority on the network. However, different operators have different criteria or metrics in this area, which has created challenges. Companies that use cloud services need these QoS metrics. They want to follow up on performance, conformity and any delays. No matter how you look at it, cloud computing is a good argument for fixed networks."
These cloud services are actually services that are offered by public internet?
"It’s usually the case. In certain regions, such as the US and Europe, where internet access is highly advanced, there is a tendency for more possibilities to be offered over the internet. MPLS and VPN provide a direct connection with cloud providers. For the majority of service providers, the internet is the most important platform from which to make their services available. For example, Amazon only offers their range via the internet."
Apart from the carrier, does the nature of network traffic have an influence?
"‘Definitely. There is no longer any doubting that there is more video content travelling over the network nowadays. Today the internet is in fact a video network, even if it was not originally designed to be. There is more high-definition media content being sent. A lot of people think of high-definition content as meaning video, but that’s not entirely accurate. Video is often embedded in documents. With demands for minimal performance standards and delays, it is definitely something that leads companies to fixed networks.’
What is the impact of this on large networks and companies?
"We are also seeing a change in architecture in the area of WAN networks. For companies, the focus of the network was predominantly between the company and the data centre. That is now more decentralised. I see a hybrid approach. We also see a strong demand for internet access points, such as via DSL, on the level of the branch or the company."
Are these traditional ADSL connections, that are still used by a lot of home-workers or franchises, still sufficient today?
"ADSL is asynchronous. Videoconferencing and other collaborative applications need a synchronous connection. If you don’t have the same speed for upstreaming as for downloading, you won’t meet the current market demands. HD videoconferencing via ADSL has defined the point at which your connection has reached its limit."
Apart from ADSL, are there any core technologies that have become especially outdated?
"Yes. And here I’m thinking about ATM, which I rarely come across now. But also about SDH. Today, it’s all IP-based using fibre optics. But if we talk about IP, I’ll have to encourage people to step away from IPv4 and make the move to IPv6. Companies are often inclined to delay doing this. But today, we need a lot more security and scalability in the fixed network. This is something IPv6 can offer."
Do you see the security, together with the services, moving more and more towards the network?
"A lot of security aspects are moving to the network. But the approach to security is best being made on a holistic level. You need to take an end-to-end look at things. Because today, there are no longer any boundaries for a company. Security is not something that you add as an afterthought. To an ever increasing extent, it’s becoming as important as the content itself."
What is the role of wireless technology in the story of corporate networks?
"3G and 4G offer universal mobile access, which is their big trump card. It will be key for operators to expand the level of broadband provided. WiFi is also already a very important access mechanism for fixed networks. Its role should certainly not be underestimated. Many users are mobile and work wherever they find themselves."
Do you have an indication of how the demand for bandwidth grows from year to year–and where it will end up?
"That’s difficult to express in figures. But the growth is drastic. I have never heard a company say ‘I’ve got enough bandwidth.’ Because there is always an application that will come along needing even more bandwidth. Companies used to use PowerPoint templates that were 1 MB in size; today they’re hovering at around 20 MB. If you send it to a number of different people, it multiplies. And if people begin working on it together in real-time, it will have an unavoidable impact on your network."
What do companies need to do to stay on top of this situation?
"Companies simply need to buy more bandwidth. Their operators need to be able to provide it. Besides this, a good network design is incredibly important. There are multicasting protocols that limit copy numbers; they duplicate in the network and they make sure that everyone gets a copy. Because the nature of traffic is changing, you need to take another look at the design of the core and access networks. You have to analyse data flow, but eventually, as a company, you’ll also have to provide extra bandwidth.’"
Belgian innovations in network services
The importance of high-performance and convergent networks and the further development of IP services is also the case in Belgium. One example of this is Irisnet, which guarantees cloud services on the broadband network in the Brussels Capital Region. Applications such as telephone switchboards and video security are already supplied from the cloud to the departments of the Brussels Capital Region. Another illustration of this type of innovation is the mobile IP VPN solution from Orange. This links local or temporary sites, such as offices, construction sites or pop-up shops via a flexible access solution based on Edge/3G technology and even via 4G/LTE.
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