June 8, 2014    /    by

Building Next Generation Networks

Are you ready to handle big data, more video, new firewalls and an exploding number of mobile devices?

Chicago skyline

Photo Credit: e.Republic/David Kidd

“Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow….”

Those words aren’t just the theme in a Fleetwood Mac song from 1977.

Public and private sector leaders are constantly challenged by the growth in new demand for faster and more efficient networks. From big data to new video to smart devices to cloud computing, the networks of the future will need to be bigger, better and faster.

Consider some of these mobile data highlights from a recent Cisco white paper:

·         Global mobile data traffic grew 81 percent in 2013. Global mobile data traffic reached 1.5 exabytes per month at the end of 2013.

·         Last year’s mobile data traffic was nearly 18 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000.

·         Mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent for the first time in 2012. Mobile video traffic was 53 percent of traffic by the end of 2013.

·         Over half a billion (526 million) mobile devices and connections were added in 2013. Global mobile devices and connections in 2013 grew to 7 billion, up from 6.5 billion in 2012.

·         Monthly global mobile data traffic will surpass 15 exabytes by 2018.

·         The number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population by 2014.

·          The average mobile connection speed will surpass 2 Mbps by 2016.

·         Due to increased usage on smartphones, smartphones will reach 66 percent of mobile data traffic by 2018.

And this is just mobile data. Big data projects are also growing dramatically and changing the way we view the future in the public sector. As Harvard Magazine pointed out in this article on why Big data is a big deal:

“…There are all kinds of applications: allocating police resources by predicting where and when crimes are most likely to occur; finding associations between air quality and health; or using genomic analysis to speed the breeding of crops like rice for drought resistance. In more specialized research, to take one example, creating tools to analyze huge datasets in the biological sciences enabled associate professor of organismic and evolutionary biology Pardis Sabeti, studying the human genome’s billions of base pairs, to identify genes that rose to prominence quickly in the course of human evolution, determining traits such as the ability to digest cow’s milk, or resistance to diseases like malaria.”

Chicago’s big data example

There are plenty of examples of cities gathering more data and making that data available to developers and others who use it to spur economic growth and opportunity.

According to Government Computer News:

“…In July, Chicago will mount sensors on light poles throughout the city, the first stage of a big data collection system whose platform the city will open up to other jurisdictions.

And to spread the town’s data mantra, the non-profit Chicago Architecture Foundation recently presented an exhibition entitled, Chicago: City of Big Data, designed to generate public awareness about links between the city’s data resources and its living spaces….

Chicago is currently working to develop its next generation of big data tools. On the data gathering side, Catlett said, it is partnering with industry and the Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD) to create an embedded sensor network dubbed the ‘Array of Things….’”

Tod Newcombe also covers six principles in planning city-level sensor projects in his series for Digital Communities. I recommend taking a look at his entire series, if you have the desire to grow similar sensor networks in your organization.

Approaches to Next Generation Networks (NGN)

So how are organizations preparing for the coming ‘new normal’ in technological innovation? The topic of next generation networks is a complex one, but this brief ZDNet video provides a good tutorial to begin.

 

I also recommend this ZDNet package of articles and case studies on next generation networks. One especially helpful executive guide to software defined networks is offered here.

 Network World also offers this article on best approaches to building next generation datacenter networks. This piece describes two competing approaches from Cisco and VMWare.

Next Generation Firewalls

As far as security goes for the next generation networks, there is now a new class of firewalls that many experts believe must be deployed immediately. This TechRepublic article describes the current firewall concerns and potential solutions. Here is an excerpt:

“The truth of the matter is that previous generation firewalls pose a serious security risk to today’s organizations. Simply put, threats are now able to bypass much of the detection capabilities integrated into previous-generation firewalls. Even more troubling is the fact that undetected threats can wreck all sorts of havoc, without anyone ever knowing about it.

Traditional firewall technology has effectively become obsolete as the technology fails to inspect the data payload of network packets circulated by today’s Internet criminals….

Gartner defines an NGFW as “a wire-speed integrated network platform that performs deep inspection of traffic and blocking of attacks.” At minimum, Gartner states an NGFW should provide:

·         Non-disruptive in-line bump-in-the-wire configuration.

·         Standard first-generation firewall capabilities, e.g., network-address translation (NAT), stateful protocol inspection (SPI) and virtual private networking (VPN), etc.

·         Integrated signature based IPS engine.

·         Application awareness, full stack visibility and granular control.

·         Capability to incorporate information from outside the firewall, e.g., directory-based policy, blacklists, white lists, etc.

·         Upgrade path to include future information feeds and security threats SSL decryption to enable identifying undesirable encrypted applications.”

Wrap-up

My goal in this blog was to get readers thinking about potential options for planning future network architectures and strategies. There is no doubt that higher speeds and more agility are required in order to be successful in providing customers the needed resources for future business needs.

The need for speed is obvious, but the depth and breadth of the problem is staggering. Add in evolving cybersecurity requirements, and our need to get back to the drawing board is clear.

When I discuss future plans with federal, state and local government technology executives from around the country, I hear many public sector leaders talking about next generation networks as a top priority item as we head into the fall.

As our nation prepares for the coming elections this fall and the new leadership that will surely emerge in many states, this network topic is an important part of an essential technology conversation. The time to begin to build your network strategy for the next four years is now.