Time to make the leap

Time to make the leap

James Harris, Product Manager of ZyXel
James Harris, Product Manager of ZyXel

James Harris, Product Manager of communications and networking equipment supplier ZyXEL, says that with the need for greater bandwidth on the LAN, now is the time for comms dealers to start moving into the world of networking

For a while now, everyone has been trying to keep their budgets tight. Most, if not all ICT spending, has been diverted towards exploring or implementing potential moneysaving solutions such as VoIP, unified comms, virtualisation, and the cloud. As a result, the already converged networking infrastructure that has to carry all these new services and solutions has been somewhat neglected.

While the need to keep cost down remains, the fact is that there is no point in having all these new services if they can’t be used effectively. In many businesses bandwidth on the LAN – and perhaps on their external connectivity too – is going to come under strain pretty soon. While the latter problem is relatively easy to address – you just need to deploy a fatter pipe or a dedicated Ethernet or leased line to get the bandwidth and Quality of Service required; the former takes a bit more consideration and investment.

But it is absolutely vital that customers are alerted to the need to look at the bandwidth of their own internal converged LAN, as well as their external capacity. Without doing so, they will not be able to get the best out of new IP-based services that they are now deploying. The strain is only going to increase too. In the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) era, we are going to see all users accessing the network with multiple devices, streaming video content, making use of conferencing and collaboration apps, monitoring social media sites and making extensive use of email. In just about every organisation today, many people use Skype or some other form of IPbased voice.

Much of this traffic, as well as having to be carried across the local area network infrastructure, will be routed via Wi-Fi. In many cases, this is the only way that mobile devices will be able to connect to the network. This is certainly the case with smartphones and with many tablet devices. Users of the new generation of super-thin and light ultrabooks and everyday laptop owners will also more or less take it for granted that they will be able to connect using WiFi.

 

Crucially, they will also expect the connection to be good; fast, consistent, reliable and capable of supporting a video-conference link with full interactivity and voice, as well as conventional VPN links for critical apps and the most demanding file transfers. What this means is that you need excellent connectivity and QoS right across the network. On Wi-Fi Access Points, on managed and unmanaged switches, on the security appliances and gateways that monitor all network traffic.

It’s the old ‘last mile’ problem that we’ve seen in the broadband market for years now. Your weakest link in the chain will dictate the overall experience that is delivered to the user, so the performance of whole network will need to be lifted. Deploying 802.11n wireless access points and hubs will give you much improved range, reliability and speed for Wi-Fi users, but if there is a bottleneck on the backbone, the users won’t get the full benefit. Similarly, if you deploy gigabit technology to the desktop, you’ll probably need 10 gigabit on the backbone. Putting in that kind of bandwidth at the core of the network won’t be any use if the links out to the client devices and access points at the network edge are not able to keep up with the pace.

Well, all that is great news if you are a networking reseller isn’t it? You can make a case for putting in a whole lot of new equipment on the basis that to make the investment in hosted VoIP, unified comms, collaboration and other services worthwhile. But how can you do that unless you are a networking reseller? There are two possible answers – partner with someone, or acquire the skills yourself.

Both options are perfectly viable. We have partners in our network whom we know would be only too willing to work with comms dealers to meet the wider needs of customers. The other choice would be acquiring the ability to sell, install and provide basic support to customers yourself. We’d urge any comms dealer that has at least some technical skills and understanding not to fight shy of this option. Training is available, you can learn at your own pace and you’ll get plenty of support in the early stages of customer engagement.

We can only really speak for our own solutions of course, but generally, networking switches, gateway appliances, wireless access points and hubs are very easy to understand and to set up.