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Transforming IT
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Renewing the network: Stop bailing and start sailing


by Yanick Pouffary, HP Distinguished Technologist


Yanick photo.jpgWe have never asked more of our networks than we ask now. In the mobile enterprise, users expect seamless access to data wherever they go. Modernization efforts introduce new devices like tablets and smartphones to the corporate network bringing a plethora of new applications. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives mean the network must accommodate an array of new device types, operating systems and brands. Users like the experience they get with consumer devices and services, and they find that consumer-grade applications meet their needs quite well. So they expect their corporate IT departments to deliver the same seamless experience.


But adding these new services, applications and devices to an over-burdened corporate network is like putting new passengers in a boat that’s already cluttered and leaking. Legacy networks are largely unprepared to accommodate them. Let’s look at why—and at what network managers must do to prepare networks to meet the demands of the mobile enterprise.


A fundamental problem is that networks are fragmented. Corporate IT services are delivered via a mix of wired, wireless and cellular networks. The user expects a seamless network experience, but the network is only loosely connected. There are no coherent policies governing operation and use of the network. There is no common management or control point. There is no proactive plan for management and expansion.


Further, our network boat has been patched and is already struggling to keep the water out. Networks are expected to grow to accommodate 50 billion connected devices. But the exhaustion of IPv4 network addresses has led to a mishmash of stateful address sharing schemes such as Network Address Translation (NAT) and carrier grade NAT. This has added complexity and created a network that is brittle, difficult to keep connected and expensive to run. Users are sharing addresses, so they are sharing the fate of their neighbors. And since user devices cannot be always connected, they become invisible to the generation of applications that assume they are!


Before we ask our networks to take on the new devices, we must simplify, rationalize, streamline and evolve the corporate network. The single most important step we can take today is to implement IPv6. By dramatically expanding the number of available IP addresses, IPv6 not only eliminates address sharing schemes and restores the Internet global reach, it also introduces new technical capabilities to deliver the network we need for the mobile enterprise of the 21st century. It allows billions of devices to be visible to applications and services. Furthermore, that one step removes layers and layers of unnecessary complexity, so network managers can begin to address the challenges of the next decade rather than patching the problems of the last ones.


One of the new challenges is the need for network applications to recognize a single user across multiple devices and connections type. (Yes, I’m on my tablet, now, but I’m still Yanick. I need the network to find the best connection for me based on my preference, and I need apps to know about me regardless of how I connect.) HP labs has invented an exciting approach called the Mobile Personal Grid — a cloud-based avatar to manage your identity, apps and connections across all your devices (see this Computerworld article). It offers IT the promise of a true administration point for BYOD users, and it offers users the secure, seamless network experience they demand.


New facilities and services like Mobile Personal Grid are part of the future for connectivity, but we can’t get there in the leaky boats most enterprises have now. Simplifying and evolving the network with IPv6 is a good first step that lets us stop bailing and start sailing.


To learn more, please come to my one-hour technical breakout (TB3244—IPv6 Transition Strategies) at HP Discover.


And my colleagues and I have written about the challenges for 21st Century IT in the Transforming IT blog. Check out these posts:


Learn how HP Network Services can help you revitalize connectivity for you organization.


Update 6/13: HP this week announced new Cloud-Ready Networking services. Learn how these innovative services can help you Optimize for Cloud Traffic (pdf download).


Yanick Pouffary is the Chief Technologist of HP Technology Services Networking and an HP Distinguished Technologist. She works within HP and with our customers to help them successfully adapt and take advantage of the changing world of Internet technology. She is also HP IPv6 worldwide global leader and an IPv6 Forum Fellow and North American Task Force Director. She helps define IPv6 strategic, technical and economic direction in the context of innovative integration and social developments. She is a strategic advisor to governments and enterprises on the topic of IPv6 transition.

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