2015TrendsIt’s hard to fathom that 2015 is already upon us, but what many people do not realize is that it also signals the midway point of the decade. That’s right, 2015 will mean that we are going to be as close to 2020 as we are to 2010. We’re closing in on the mid-point of the decade, but are we as an industry any closer to comfortably handling the continuing “data deluge” that I spoke about a year ago?

It depends!  Progress has certainly been made on many fronts, and some organizations are in much better shape than others in addressing bandwidth and network intelligence requirements.  However, I don’t have to tell you that the pace of industry and technology change is unrelenting, and will require a high level of agility and speed just to keep up. 

So get ready to kick it up another notch. Here is a summary of what I believe will be some of the key trends influencing enterprise networks in 2015:

  1. The Internet of Things is Upon Us 
    Infrastructure providers play an increasingly critical role in enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). Whether providing wired or wireless connectivity to devices, or software-based solutions coupled with connectivity, providers play an increasingly important role. The IoT is evolving to meet the customers’ needs for better data in real-time.

  2. The Importance of Sensor Networks in the Building 
    As buildings become more intelligent, we see the use of sensors coming into play. A sensor-based network, like the kind used with intelligent lighting solutions, is powered through structured cabling and plays an important role in making buildings increasingly intelligent. The sensors collect data that help facilities managers make better decisions on space utilization and energy usage, as well as provide a security feature through motion and thermal tracking.
     
  3. Crowning of Category 6A
    2014 saw Category 6A making its way out of the data center and into the building.  This trend can be attributed to a few factors: 

         A. New generations of Wi-Fi access points are requiring more and more bandwidth.  This will continue to have a positive effect on getting consumers to think about going to a higher grade cabling. In 2014, the IEEE approved the 802.11ac wireless networking standard that provided high-throughput wireless local area networks. This is one driver that I believe will create an uptick on Category 6 and 6A, also resulting in a significant decline in Category 5E. We are also witnessing higher education and healthcare organizations requiring high-bandwidth and deploying Category 6A per the TIA recommendations.  

         B. Category 6A is also a viable carrier for next generation indoor cellular wireless solutions as well as Wi-Fi. Wireless coverage is considered by many as the next utility within the building and Category 6A can provide the infrastructure for Wi-Fi as well as next generation in- building wireless systems. 

  4. Continued Adoption of Fiber Solutions 
    When it comes to high grade multimode optical fiber, as well as pre-terminated solutions, the move towards OM4 has accelerated. OM4 is being used in 40G and 100G networks around the world and that is driving users and manufactures to ask for higher grade cabling. We are working with industry standards groups on next generation fiber - like the TIA TR-42 group discussing the proposal of a wide band multimode fiber solution. 

  5. The Unleashing of Category 8 
    You might already know about the 40G standard debate that has been ongoing since its first concept demonstration in late 2012. In 2015, I think the standard will take a step closer to the light of the market with manufacturers getting ready to either put Category 8 into pre-production or provide a limited availability in anticipation of a standard which might be completed in 2015 or early 2016. Pre-standardization can be referred to as a manufacturing phase that provides a limited availability of a product to allow for customer trials and sampling – this phase will probably be the first sighting of Category 8 in the market. 

  6. The Modular Mix 
    Multitenant data centers, or Co-Los, are still the growing force in the market as well as the hyperscale, cloud and service providers of the internet data center segment. They are the biggest energy consumers and have the largest appetite for data center connectivity and monitoring solution.

    With that said, the modular data center is getting into the mix as a viable solution for increasing data center capacity. As the data deluge continues, companies can get a modular data center installed and operational within less than a year. This certainly brings a rapid deployment capability that can be a good solution for companies who may not have realized how quickly they would need to expand when seeing capacity running low.  

  7. A Better Understanding of DCIM 
    The market has been slower to implement data center infrastructure management solutions but we are seeing that customers have a better understanding of the value in DCIM to optimize data center performance over time. A DCIM solution enables organizations to monitor power and understand and plan asset refreshes and placement.  I think DCIM software providers are trying to help the customer see an ROI sooner than later. Solutions providers need to engage customers on the front end to understand their problems and choose a solution that will solve those problems. So when the “go-live” takes place, the user is prepared for what they will see and how to work with it. The go-live needs to be favorable and if the planning isn’t carefully thought through and executed, the result won’t be optimal. Look for DCIM solution providers to place more emphasis on striving to make the user experience more beneficial. 
One of the points that I made last year is worth repeating—organizations can help ensure success in the year ahead by proper planning, asking the right questions and making sure to stick to a roadmap. This will go a long way to alleviating the challenges that come with evolving technology and increasing bandwidth needs in the foreseeable future.

About the Author

Kevin St. Cyr

Kevin St. Cyr is senior vice president, Enterprise Solutions, at CommScope, a global leader in infrastructure solutions for communications networks. St. Cyr leads engineering, R&D and product line management for the segment that serves business enterprises around the world. He joined CommScope in 2012 from Berk-Tek, a Nexans company, at which he was president since 1998 and senior vice president of marketing and sales from 1996 to 1998. St. Cyr also has held various management positions at Champlain Cable, a subsidiary of Huber + Suhner, and General Electric. St. Cyr has a bachelor’s degree in plastics engineering from the University of Lowell and a master’s degree in business administration from the Pennsylvania State University.

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