In the past two years, the topic of BYOD has been front and center at virtually every mobility and networking conference. IT leaders wanted to find out how to deal with the shift from a limited set of corporate-issued and controlled devices to the new world order where employees are bringing the devices they know and love into the workplace.
BYOD has now moved into the mainstream with most organizations taking advantage of employees’ desire to bring their own smartphones and tablets into the work environment. While this delivers real productivity and cost savings for the enterprise, it also presents management, device onboarding and bandwidth challenges for network administrators.
To address these challenges, 2014 will be the year where networks adapt, responding in real-time to each user’s requirement for services and applications.
When networks are able to optimize for each user’s unique requirements, IT can deliver a seamless and reliable experience for communications and business applications. The growth in personal and business applications is driving massive bandwidth consumption by employees.
Cellular networks are not engineered to handle these loads, and rely on Wi-Fi networks to offload a large portion of the bandwidth needs. In addition, the adoption of new devices connecting to the network — including laptops, smartphones and tablets — is driving the need for better wireless networks. Users now carry an average of three devices, exceeding the network designs of the past that were engineered for one or two devices per employee.
Fortunately, Wi-Fi technology continues to advance with the advent of 802.11ac, which is seeing rapid deployment in access points and adoption in client devices. In fact, over 40 million 802.11ac-equipped Samsung Galaxy S4 devices were sold in the second half of 2013.
The 802.11ac products that will make up the bulk of WLAN device shipments by the end of 2014, deliver three times the throughput of pre-802.11ac devices. Because these devices are faster, they actually spend less time communicating over the air and enable the Wi-Fi network to support more devices.
By deploying 802.11ac access points in the coming year, network administrators can ensure that their wireless infrastructure can handle the growing number of devices on their networks and the throughput needs of these devices.
Although 802.11ac is an excellent solution for ensuring better performance and improved bandwidth, we can expect network bandwidth needs to continue to skyrocket. As enterprises move more business-critical applications such as unified communications to mobile devices, their networks will need to become smarter, interacting with these applications so they can deliver the best experience.
This application intelligence will enable unified wired and wireless networks to automatically recognize and prioritize applications, reserving the required bandwidth for real-time applications.
In addition to optimizing limited bandwidth resources, networks will give employees more control over managing their own access and devices. With BYOD and the accompanying explosion in the number of mobile devices, IT organizations have already realized that they need to enable self-service so that employees can manage their network and resources with less IT involvement.
For example, in an adaptive network environment, an employee will be able to connect an AirPlay enabled media device and grant access to a guest who has just connected to the network by creating an account from a self-service portal. With these intelligent networks, employees won’t need to call the help desk to reconfigure the Virtual LANs and/or firewall policies for common tasks.
The Wi-Fi experience will automatically configure to each user’s needs by enabling Quality of Service (QoS) for applications as well as connecting the network resources based on user and role, all without manual configuration. The network will automatically adapt to the changing mix in traffic to ensure the best user experience and the most efficient network architecture.
Administrators will benefit from improved visibility into the applications being used and faster problem resolution. This network model will also reduce help desk calls by enabling self-service for tasks such as granting guest wireless access or sharing a printer or projector with a visitor.
With these changes on the horizon, don’t be surprised to see more industry conference sessions moving from a focus on BYOD to the benefits of more adaptive mobile networks.