Towards the end of 2014, we undoubtedly witnessed a shift in both business and consumer awareness of the importance of network security, largely due to high profile breaches of customer bank details from companies such as Target and JP Morgan.
What has become clear is that, in addition to preventing technical problems, security systems also need to proactively protect the network from the company employees that use the system day in, day out, often unwittingly putting the network at risk.
2014 saw a significant lack of education in terms of network management. The more complex the system, the better educated the end user should be. In practice, the responsibility should fall to the vendor to educate the end user – but vendors are not fulfilling their end of the bargain. Instead, we have seen contractors install complex systems that the end user does not understand.
As the need for education becomes more pressing, I predict that in 2015 there will be a greater investment in educating the next generation of net admins.
As consumers become more tech-savvy, we will continue to witness the evolution of BYOD and the increasing impact that the Internet of Things (IoT) can have on the corporate network. Essentially, we'll have to learn to manage our networks inside out.
The IoT landscape in 2015 promises all manner of benefits and many companies are offering advice on how best to manage the changes and, eventually, take advantage of the benefits. The real challenge is the change of mind-set and whole new way of managing networks and IT use policy. We'll have to reassess how we grant access to devices that we would normally outright refuse. Traditionally the best way to keep the network secure has been to limit access. With BYOD evermore the norm, IoT is seen as the next challenge networks will have to manage, with even more access from a much wider variety of devices.
Similarly, 2014 saw virtualisation become ubiquitous: it is now used in the majority of networks, in a range of sizes and complexity, and there has been a continued emphasis on extending the benefits of virtualisation to desktops (Virtualised Desktop Infrastructure). Last year, the key concerns for IT Pros were how businesses should handle Microsoft's OS changes – particularly the halt in support for XP. This year, we will continue to see virtualisation reinforce IT professionals' need to align themselves with business goals and ensure that IT infrastructure is able to grow and change along with the business.
You don't need a sixth sense to know that cloud news in 2015 will be dominated by a combination of VM portability and hybrid clouds.
Cisco's acquisition of MetaCloud will further drive the "cloud-in-a-box" movement as well as pushing "the network" to mean a combination of network, storage, and virtual hypervisors. All of these aspects are relevant now, but combining each element is the real challenge. Businesses will be forced to look at how they can support an increasingly complex network and how best to increase network security and performance.
New "cloud-of-cloud" providers (like Hosting.com) will be created to serve market demand for reliable cloud data centre architectures. Similarly, the concept of "cloud-in-a-box" will hit mainstream, as vendors like VMware introduce their VSAN technology allowing SMBs to have SAN-like advantages without the hefty price tag. However, cheap isn't always best, and it's important to consider exactly what your corporate network needs in terms of flexibility, scalability and security before jumping on the bandwagon.
Finally, today's 'always on' attitude in the work environment will continue to blur the lines between work and play across businesses in Europe, as flexible working becomes key to ensuring a work life balance for employees. Apps are now required to perform all business functions such as database management, email, word processing, process optimisation and instant messaging, and they're known collectively as the application stack.
In that regard, 2015 needs to be the year where IT admins can be guaranteed complete visibility into these converged infrastructures. IT Pros need to move beyond the siloed mind-set and adopt a more holistic, app-centric view of network monitoring. They must seek a full view of the technologies supporting applications, and connect the dots between the full application stack; that is, the application code, software, and hardware components required for an application to operate at peak performance. Composite monitoring will allow the network admin to see the entire picture and define the source of an outage quickly and efficiently, with the minimum impact on business.
- Patrick Hubbard is a Senior Technical Product Marketing Manager and Head Geek at SolarWinds, an IT management software provider based in Austin, Texas