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The Network Top 10: Technology Trends and Must-Haves for 2012

Brought to you by the Cisco Innovators Program

Anyone who manages a network is embarking on an exciting ride. Maybe you've already strapped on your seat belt and are underway, riding through:

  • A steep climb in Internet traffic and network access from smartphones and tablets
  • Increased traction in cloud services and virtualization
  • The growing popularity of IP voice and video
  • Challenging twists and turns in security, including international hacking

We'll do a flyover tour of the ride at 30,000 feet, then take a ground run for 2012.

The Vision: Five Future Technology Trends

Cisco CEO John Chambers and CTO Padmasree Warrior say the role of the network is transforming from foundation to the center point that enables the connections of people, devices, and information. Some of the top trends that they see in the coming years are:

  1. Any device, to any content, any way. The network will unify wireless and wired access to support the proliferation of devices ("bring your own device", or BYOD) and ubiquitous mobility. Virtualization and cloud services will deliver content whenever they provide a lower cost of ownership (this is why Cisco is now migrating most of its own business applications to data center virtualization).
  2. Collaboration with customers, staff, suppliers and other partners will grow, using video, data, and voice communications on a variety of devices. The ability to quickly and easily collaborate no matter where people are will transform business processes, as it has done already in education and healthcare.
  3. Video will be the cornerstone of collaboration. Video conferencing and person-to-person video calling are already proving particularly powerful for sales processes and for doing business at a distance, both locally and globally.
  4. Network security elements such as firewalls, content security, and policy and identity management will converge. The result: seamless connections and context-aware security that recognizes who you are, what you're supposed to have access to, what device you're on, and where you are globally, and then provides access accordingly.
  5. A network technology architecture will connect any device across any combination of networks, increase cost efficiency by integrating network security and management, and improve business processes, including energy management.

A Checklist: Five Must-Have Technologies for 2012

Is your network ready for the new year, or will it be a stopper? Most businesses will need these technologies to move forward:

  1. Reliable and secure Wi-Fi access. Smartphones, tablets, and wireless IP phones used for business need the speed and stability of Wireless-N (802.11n) network access, as well as support for quality of service (QoS) for latency-sensitive traffic. Adding access points is easier and faster with clustering. Some wireless routers integrate security—such as VLANs, firewall, VPN, and security services—to increase and simplify your control.
  2. Power over Ethernet (PoE). PoE juices up a network in two ways: It gives you more flexibility in locating wireless access points and other wired devices, and it adds more power per port to support higher-draw technologies such as Wireless-N. PoE is included many small business routerssmall business switches, phones, and wireless solutions.
  3. Stronger network security. Mobility, social networking, cloud services, and international hacking are growing. Is your security technology keeping pace? Essential technologies include content security, firewall, VPN, and VLANs. Security solutions that are integrated can increase application performance, save you time, and give you centralized control. Powerful integrated security is available in a variety of Cisco security solutions (see more specifics below in "Next Steps"). Even some small business routers have baseline Internet security.
  4. Collaborative communications. Each year more small businesses reduce operating costs and raise productivity by using unified IP phones.
  5. High-performance, high-availability connections. Fast, efficient traffic flow is a top priority for any business using mobile devices, cloud applications, or IP voice or video. You can speed traffic by using Wireless-N and Gigabit Ethernet (see more specifics in "Next Steps"). Your traffic intersections (routing and switching) must optimize traffic flow, using technologies such as QoS. And if you invest in a new router or switch (or DNS server), it should include support for IPv6, as Cisco products do.

2012 will be an adventure ride. Having an expert Cisco Certified Partner at your side can ensure that your technology brings you top business value.

Next Steps

Find a nearby Cisco Certified Partner that can help you and your business.

See Cisco wireless solutions and how one small business uses them.

Learn about integrated security in Cisco SA500 Security Appliances, Integrated Services Routers Generation 2 (ISR G2), and adaptive security appliances.

Discover Gigabit Ethernet solutions for small businesses, including Cisco managed switches and smart switches, as well as the Cisco 1900 Series and 2900 Series ISRs with comprehensive security controls.

Join the Cisco Innovators Program to continue receiving small business-related articles, videos, and offers. Already a member? Refer a friend.

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