iPhone 6

Network Challenges After iPhone Meltdown

iPhone 6There were a number of interesting aspects to Apple’s recent iPhone announcements, not least of which were the record-setting sales, but a couple stood out as red flags for the near future of the enterprise network. There were the usual oohs and aahs that seem to greet every Apple product launch, even for a pair of phones that pretty much just caught up to where others had already gone before. There was the Apple Pay payment system, and the long-awaited smartwatch (for some reason it wasn’t worthy of an ‘i’), set to debut under the more plebeian name Apple Watch sometime in 2015.

With list prices ranging from $200-$500, Apple reported more than 4 million pre-orders for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus within the first 24 hours. Then they turned around and sold 10 million units within the first week, a million better than its predecessor, and that’s without including the Chinese market, which is second only to the US in iPhone users.

For the legions of Apple bashers, new product gremlins, and fashionistas, there were operating system problems, Bendgate, and challenges finding a pocket big enough to hold the larger phones. As troubling as these setbacks might — or might not — seem, from an enterprise perspective, there were bigger issues associated with the announcements.

According to Cisco, Apple’s new iOS8 generated a 50% increase in network traffic, and that was just a sign of things to come. The networking company said that with more and more services being moved to the cloud, that will push updates (operating systems, application updates, and security fixes) to the millions — and eventually billions — of users and devices on networks.

Cisco has been gleefully predicting massive increases in data, devices and users for years, and for years, those predictions have been coming true. However, those forecasts were mainly about growth in mobility, Big Data, the Internet of Things, and vehicle and home automation, not software upgrades, fixes, and whatever. While Apple Pay appears to be timely — paying bills via mobile and PC devices is expected to account for more than 20 billion household bill payments this year — that’s another huge network workload that will have to be dealt with.

Then there’s the new support for 802.11ac, providing up to 3x faster Wi-Fi than the iPhone 5’s 802.11n. Faster WiFi should be good news for iPhone users, but less so for enterprises, especially those that haven’t yet upgraded their networks.

According to a new report, the worldwide Wi-Fi customer premises equipment (CPE) market is expected to grow 11% in 2014, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi CPE shipments are predicted to capture 18% of the 176 million access points to be sold this year. ABI Research expects that nearly 32 million 802.11ac access points will be shipped in 2014.

The research company said rapidly growing Wi-Fi-enabled mobile devices and multimedia applications continue to drive demand for higher performance Wi-Fi equipment, with the enterprise Wi-Fi market experiencing increased deployments of 802.11ac devices. Cisco and Aruba Networks sold the largest numbers of 802.11ac access points in the enterprise Wi-Fi market; a combined total of 100,000 802.11ac access points in 1Q 2014. The enterprise class Wi-Fi equipment market is expected to grow to generate revenues of $US8.1 billion by the end of 2019.

Dreaded fashionistas aside — or those surprised that making highly complex devices lighter will also make them more fragile — Apple’s new phones offer both benefits and headaches for enterprises. And on the horizon are the wearables like the Watch, and all the joys they will bring to the network world.