Why is there so much talk about converged networks?
The question was asked — and answered — by 3Com chief technology officer John Hart, keynote speaker at the Networld+ Interop show in Sydney last week. Hart says that while networking addresses the eco-nomy as it exists today, it is also spawning a new economy characterised by such things as suppression of the supply chain through extranets, virtual companies (eg, amazon. com) and online banking. The new economy, in turn, is generating a demand for converged networks which transmit real-time two-way voice and video as well as data.
However, before we can get to converged networking we need to address problems with current networks, Hart says.
3Com has come up with four transition goals which the industry must meet in order to take current networks to converged networks. Hart says 3Com has re--engineered its internal processes around them.
The first is that network complexity must be reduced. In fact, the aim is zero administration, says Hart. Why aren't networks plug and play?
The second goal is that networks must be mission-critical rather than mission--optional. "We need 99.99% availability," says Hart. "The compression of the supply chain is done through the network. If the network goes down you lose money."
Hart's definition of the network stretches to desktops and servers, so if the desktop is rebooting, the network is down for that user. "So far, I haven't found anyone who can say their desktop is 99.99% available. I believe the network is closer to that availability than the servers and desktop."
Hart says that to get around the PC and server bottleneck there will be a proliferation of dedicated devices, such as phones, that run over IP or servers that handle only storage.
The third goal is the ability to do business over the network in real time. This calls for policy to ensure bandwidth is prioritised to real-time applications.
The fourth goal is enabling people to manage that policy. Hart says scalability is also a major issue. "For each transition we have to think of scaling as if we are building to network everybody in the world."
He says the good news is that the building and campus infrastructures companies are building today are converged-network ready. "From a delay and latency point of view we are getting close to real time, but that's not the case in the WAN."