RealTime IT News

Interop: We Want More

Reporter's Notebook: LAS VEGAS -- As a city built on excess, Las Vegas was the perfect venue for this year's Interop. But how much of what went on in Vegas this week actually stay in Vegas?

In session after session, booth after booth and briefing after briefing, I heard only one word ringing in my ears: more. More speed, more power, more features, more security and, perhaps, more dramatically this year than in previous years -- more interoperability.

Microsoft helped set the tone of the event with its day-one announcement of interoperability between its NAP and the TNC network access control frameworks. The theme pervaded the show, as vendors up and down the line spent an inordinate amount of time in their booths and in seminars all talking about how their stuff will work with others.

With a show called Interop that should hardly be a surprise, though, right?

Users by and large are demanding more than ever before from their networks, IDC analyst Abner Germanow gave reasons why networking is growing faster than other segments of IT. The bottom line is that more stuff is coming onto the network, which is a reality Nortel CEO and president Mike Zafirovski expressed during his day-two keynote about hyperconnectivity.

Getting more out of existing networks was also a theme in sessions. Call it WAN optimization or network intelligence; it amounts to the same thing in the final analysis.

Users are trying to squeeze as much as they can over their WANs and are looking for any edge they can find to get it. More vendors than I can count told me they have solutions to provide x greater performance than standard connections, and I noticed a lot of booth visitors nod their heads as they agreed that was something they wanted.

Certainly WAN optimization isn't anything dramatically new, but it's important to remember that networks don't change overnight, and, as IDC's projections show, it is now that demand is really ramping up.

Users are also asking for more speed. Vendors with 10GbE gear accounted for much of the activity as did The Ethernet Alliance, which was showing off 10GbE standards. One GbE in the datacenter just isn't enough anymore for many demanding environments.

The newly ratified 10GBASE-T standard is one mechanism by which more will be provided to datacenters, allowing them to move packets at greater speeds using their existing cable infrastructure.

On the wireless side, audience questions asking when 802.11n gear would truly be shipping and ready for full deployment dominated a session on the future of enterprise wireless. The general consensus from vendors is 2008, but clearly there are many out there that need the extra bandwidth promised by 802.11n as soon as they can get it.

On the power side, users want more electrical power out of their Ethernet, too. In a session with panelists from Alcatel-Lucent, Nortel and Cisco about the future of the network switch, the question-and-answer session was filled with audience questions about Power over Ethernet (PoE) Plus.

PoE Plus is an emerging Ethernet standard to provide 30 watts or more of power over a standard CAT 5e cable. The existing power over Ethernet standard can only support about 15 watts. Users and vendors alike were excited about the prospect of reducing wires in their organizations and being able to power and provide connectivity to a wider range of devices than is currently possible.

Enterprise network users are a demanding bunch.

The slogan "whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" is not likely to hold true for what I saw this year at Interop. Enterprises are demanding more than ever before from their networks and it's a demand that I expect vendors will do their best to satiate.

Sean Michael Kerner is senior editor of internetnews.com.