Core router and switch upgrades are the top project priorities for network managers, followed by wireless implementations, according to new research from TheInfoPro. IT departments are grappling with aging network equipment while juggling demand for newer network initiatives, such as mobile device management, fueled by IT consumerization and BYOD trends.
Network technology spending remains in catch-up mode, says Daniel Kennedy, research director for information security and networking at TheInfoPro and author of the firm's 2012 Network Technology Study. "The top pain point is aging hardware and keeping up with technology," Kennedy says, "and technology refresh is the most important business driver."
At the same time, certain new projects remain high on enterprises' lists of planned network initiatives, including unified communication and mobile device management.
Overall, networking budget growth is healthy but slowing compared to last year, researchers found. Between 2010 and 2011, 48% of respondents to TheInfoPro's annual network survey reported a budget increase. This time around, 38% of respondents reported a budget increase while 23% reported a budget decrease. Operational expenses make up 64% of respondents' networking budgets, and the remaining 36% is dedicated to capital expenditures.
On the project front, the top networking project respondents plan to tackle in the next 12 months is a core routing and switch upgrade, cited by 29% of network managers. Echoing the problem of aging hardware, the third most popular networking project is a technology refresh (13%).
The second most common networking project is wireless rollouts, planned by 14% of network managers. Similarly, 9% are planning wireless LAN rollouts, which ranked as the fifth most common project.
VoIP (cited by 12% of respondents), network expansion (7%), WAN optimization (6%), network security (6%), consolidation (6%) and VPN (5%), also ranked among the top 10 network projects planned.
Two network initiatives that didn't rank highly on the list of planned projects are IPv6 and software-defined networking (SDN).
Kennedy isn't surprised that IPv6 projects aren't more pressing. "It's always reported as hot and in plan, for three years now, but the needle never seems to move," he says. "We're hearing 12% of people have done anything about it. A lot of people have tested and a lot of people will claim they're ready, but [IPv6 has] just sort of been sitting in their plans forever."
As for OpenFlow and software-defined networks, "only 2% of people say they're doing something now with [OpenFlow]. Another 2% are "looking closely" at OpenFlow-enabled hardware, Kennedy says.
When asked about the most important business drivers for network projects, technology refresh topped the list (cited by 29% of respondents), followed by reducing cost (27%), and security risks (10%).
Cloud adoption is high among respondents, with 80% reporting they use externally provided cloud computing of some kind. There are limitations to what some companies will commit to the cloud, however. More than one-third of respondents (36%) said they're not comfortable using public cloud providers for enterprise projects, primarily because of security concerns. Additionally, 60% said they could not envision hosting a mission-critical application at a public cloud provider.
TheInfoPro, which is part of The 451 Group, interviewed 155 networking professionals at large and midsize enterprises, primarily from North America, for its 2012 Network Technology Study, released today.
Ann Bednarz covers IT careers, outsourcing and Internet culture for Network World. Follow Ann on Twitter at @annbednarz and check out her blog, Occupational Hazards. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
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