Enterprise networks face accelerating obsolescence

Refreshing technology early in the obsolescence cycle prevents financial headaches later, says Dimension Data

An accelerating network obsolescence cycle is leaving many Australian businesses in the dust, according to a new report by Dimension Data, a provider of networking services.

The company assessed 300 large and enterprise organisations worldwide and determined that the networks of 45 per cent would be “totally obsolete within five years.”

About 11 per cent of the companies assessed were Australian and the pace of the country’s obsolescence cycle appears to be in line with the rest of the world, said Dimension Data national manager network integration, Gregg Sultana. A large portion of companies belong to the financial services and public sector, he said.

The company saw an increase in the number of end-of-sale devices to 70 per cent in 2011 from 4.2 per cent in the previous calendar year, it said. End of sale means the product can no longer be purchased.

“End of sale is occurring much sooner,” Sultana said. What was once a seven-year cycle has become five years, he said. One reason is that rapid adoption of new architecture and technologies is speeding up manufacturer’s own cycles so they can take advantage of the new in-demand capability, he said.

However, the percentage of devices in the higher risk end-of-contract-renewal and end-of-engineering stages dropped to 20.8 per cent in 2011 from 86.2 per cent in 2010, the company said. Under those phases, the manufacturer has cut support for the product.

Network managers “need to understand their as-is position” to “make an informed decision … around risk” for supporting the devices in the network, Sultana told Computerworld Australia. One strategy might be to move an older device from the core to the edge of the network, he said. “It’s not as risky out in the edge but the core is very risky [because] it can impact a lot of users.”

It’s important to consider refreshing technology early in the obsolescence cycle, Sultana said. “Having an understanding of devices in the network and when they’re going to go through those various obsolescence triggers allows you to plan with your finance guys around capital expenditures," he said. That helps to avoid unplanned expenses and outages, he said.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has resulted in new security vulnerabilities for networks, Sultana said. “They’re starting to attach devices to the edge of the network that we never really had a high enough risk consideration around security vulnerabilities,” he said. “Those security vulnerabilities that we sort of maybe discounted we need to think a little bit more about now.”

The new vulnerabilities caused by BYOD can be mitigated, Sultana said. “As long you utilise best practice around authorisation, authentication, security posture assessment … you’re able to have a secure network against those threats.”

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