This single event epitomizes how much society depends on networking technology, and while 2012 was a breakthrough year for broadcasters, enterprises and consumers, what does 2013 hold?
1. Software-Defined Networking (SDN) deployments begin -- The Olympics proved that consumer demand for information accessibility shows no sign of abating. However, as service providers try to meet that demand and juggle the complexities of running a profitable business -- for instance, to reduce CapEx (capital expenditure) and
2. Death of the "Transaction-Based" user -- Users, whether business or consumer, are addicted to their Internet-connected devices. In fact, more than 440 million mobile handsets were shipped in the third quarter of 2012, with more than 25 percent of those being smartphones, indicating the user appetite for connectivity. However, with the roll-out of higher-performing networks (such as 4G and LTE) and devices that offer seamless connectivity, I predict that 2013 will be the year that we see the decline of the "transaction-based" user and the rise of the "always-connected" user [A "transaction-based user" is an individual that will connect to the Internet to conduct an activity (such as to make a purchase or to stream content), and then log off. The premise is that the user will sparingly use bandwidth and not rely on connectivity for every aspect of their life]. Operators will vie for consumer loyalty by offering attractive pricing models, fueling the trend for 24/7 connectivity. Businesses will leverage this phenomenon and increasingly turn to social media and communities to host a larger portion of their customer experience and support processes. While this will transform engagement models, to be successful, operators and businesses will need to ensure that their back-end networks can meet user expectations. In situations such as this, even one service disruption could be fatal to the customer relationship.
3. Cloud under the microscope -- Last year Brocade predicted that non-IT organizations would move towards "cloud service provisioning" in order to uncover new ways of optimizing and monetizing cloud and service provider networks. For the next 12 months, I see this trend continuing, but in an evolved state. First, businesses will scrutinize the impact of the cloud, its benefits, usage and ROI more than ever before. Are deployments delivering the agility and cost savings predicted? Are users benefitting? How can one measure cloud ROI when, by design, the assets are not owned by the organization? With this in mind, I predict that IT organizations will attempt to take back control
of their own assets (and budgets) and the deployment of private cloud architectures will accelerate during the second half of the year. IT organizations will also challenge the new breed of service provider by offering competing hosted services. This strategy will help them to bolster revenue opportunities from a market that will be worth
4. Customers bite back on vendor lock-in -- As consumers, we don't like being shackled. More generally, "product de-siloing" is a clear macro-trend. Whether it is the flexibility to personalize apps on our phone, or select the optional extras on our vehicles, choice is paramount. Within the networking space, choice is even more imperative. As alliances ebb and flow, and integrated offerings continue to break into the mainstream, the importance of open architectures and multivendor solutions will become more prevalent in 2013. Trust is essential when building a network to support mission-critical applications, and enterprises will turn to trusted vendors to deploy flexible and scalable solutions. As such, those vendors not able to coexist in multivendor environments will struggle in this more demanding, and competitive, landscape. Only the agile and collaborative will prosper, and I expect at least one major vendor casualty in the coming year.
5. Technology will begin to overcome human shortcomings -- I remember when desktop icons did not exist... a time when a user had to manually type the name of an application in a shell-like text window to access applications. This was time-consuming, error-prone and frustrating, but the desktop icon revolutionized the user experience. Innovations such as this overcame human shortcomings and simplified the user experience, and I predict more such innovations over the next 12 months. Think of voice-command devices, and the fact that modern smartphones can deliver communications, content and compute services in a single form factor. This kind of human multitasking would not happen naturally, but the rate of technology innovation has increased to such a degree that it is now second nature to even the most basic user. I expect more breakthrough advances this year... exactly, what that breakthrough will be is the million-dollar question.
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