METRE: 3Com's Benhamou sees intelligent networks in the future
What else is in store, and when can we expect it?
Tel Aviv (January 11, 1998) -- The corporate networks of the future won't just span larger distances and handle more data at higher speeds, they will be smarter as well, if 3Com Corp. CEO and Chairman Eric Benhamou's predictions come true.
Speaking this morning to a group of Israeli high-tech firms and venture capitalists at the Mediterranean Technology Round Table Exhibition (METRE) being held here, Benhamou said that networks won't just need to be faster and more reliable, but will have to be able to tell the difference between certain kinds of data in order to give priority to business-critical applications. In other words, networks will need to be policy-based, Benhamou said.
Right now, high-level network applications, such as real-time network monitoring and two-way voice and video, are given the same priority in a network as low-level applications, such as non-critical e-mail and Web browsing, Benhamou said. In addition, applications used by employees across a company, from the CEO down to the receptionist, are given the same treatment -- something which needs to change in order to make networks more apt to serve business needs, he said.
"Not all users (in a network) should be treated the same," Benhamou said.
The technology exists within 3Com and its closest competitors, Cisco Systems Inc. and Bay Networks Inc., to build this kind of "intelligence" into the network, Benhamou said. However, there are very few applications available to take advantage of policy-based networking, he said. Because of the lack of software, networking won't begin to advance as quickly as it could until 2000 at the earliest, he said. Most software applications on the market today aren't "intelligent" enough to distinguish between and separate voice, video and data traffic -- something that will be imperative to a policy-based network, he said.
In addition to policies within a LAN (local area network), there will also be software which allows data to tunneled across different layers of a WAN (wide area network), Benhamou said. For example, non-sensitive e-mail sent from a company's office in California to its office in New York would go via the public switched network, while a videoconference between two top-level managers would automatically be sent over the company's ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) network, he said. Different sorts of data will travel between clients and servers in their own virtual tunnels, depending on a set of pre-defined policies, he said.
On top of all these policies, software must be created which can constantly manage the policies put in place, so that those rules can be enforced twenty four hours a day, Benhamou added.
So when can we expect to see networks with this kind of built-in technology? Whenever the applications are ready for it, Benhamou said.
Kristi Essick is a correspondent for the IDG News Service.
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