LAN3 at Ten - the Financial Crisis, Steve Jobs and the Future of Networking

Written by: Steven Thompson | August 14, 2018

Those who’ve reached ten years of marriage will recognise the milestone is celebrated with the exchanging of gifts made from tin.

As we celebrate LAN3’s 10-year anniversary, tin is an apt material as I look back on the company’s evolution, and that of the networking industry itself.

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10 years ago, on the eve of the collapse of Lehmann Brothers, myself and Martin Jones quit our steady sales jobs and established a reseller dedicated to selling networking tin.

Nothing makes you feel more alive than quitting your job at the start of the largest financial crisis in living memory.

With a stark warning from the Bank Manager that the UK is littered with the remains of start-up IT companies, the first days were chaotic.

Two ex-sales people quickly discovered that establishing a company from scratch was significantly different from working for someone else, where payroll, accounting, services and HR were someone else’s problem. 

The early days of LAN3, mirroring the networking landscape at the time, was very much about shifting tin – buy for £1, sell for £2 and run a business on the difference. We got by and certainly beat the meagre expectations of our Bank Manager.

Little did we know of the revolution kicking off in Silicon Valley.

On the other side of the world, a man called Steve Jobs was about to turn networking, and many other industries, on its head with the release of the first iPhone.

The explosion of new devices – an explosion that still reverberates today – resulted in every organisation in the country needing to take networking seriously, sometimes for the first time, to meet the increased demand these additional devices placed on the network.

LAN3 had to adapt to these seismic changes too. Instead of shifting tin, the complexity and growing importance of the network, meant our expertise and services were in demand to ensure the expectations of those connecting to the network were met.

Today, it would be accurate to describe LAN3 as a services business rather than a networking one. Significantly more of our profit is derived from services – or the expertise of our engineers – than the selling of tin.

Looking back, the starting gun on many of the drivers in our industry today can be traced back to the release of smartphones. The Internet of Things, cloud-hosted business applications and software defined networking are just the latest.

The networking market does not stand still.  Staying ahead of the curve will be key to our continued success. 

Now, more than ever, IT is being viewed as the vehicle for business transformation.  Companies that embrace the digital disruption are the companies that will prosper, those that fight it risk obsolescence. 

Bringing this back to LAN3’s ten year anniversary, the days of the network being an expensive and sprawling collection of tin - APs, switches and routers - joined together by cables is drawing to a close.

Software, alongside artificial intelligence and automation, is sweeping through every industry, leaving a trail of innovation – and destruction - in its wake.

The world’s largest taxi firm, Uber, owns no cars. The world’s largest retailer, Alibaba, carries no stock. And the world’s largest accommodation provider, Airbnb, owns no property.

Something big is going on, and it doesn’t involve selling and installing tin.

Networking’s Uber-moment is hurtling at us at alarming speed. The emergence of Software Defined Networking is leading us towards a future where the network will be provisioned and managed in the cloud, with a range of support services.

With this in mind, I am delighted to announce LAN3 has established a ‘Software Defined Networking’ department to assist our clients in this transition and ensure LAN3 remains where it has been for the last ten years. At the cutting edge of networking, both in the campus and datacentre.

Looking forward, what’s that next iPhone moment set to revolutionise networking?

Predicting the future is difficult and full of false prophecies. But with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos preparing the likes of Tesla and Amazon for a future where everything is connected to the internet via a network of some description, I believe this is a trend that looks set to continue.

The Internet of Things (IoT) could transform all organisations, and perhaps even how we live our lives in an always connected world.

It’s not difficult to imagine a future borrowed from the pages of a Black Mirror script: - self-driving cars shuttle us to and from work in smart cities where traffic is auto-managed. Wearable technology integrates seamlessly with hospitals, giving doctors faster access to patients’ data. The possibilities are endless.

But the benefits and efficiency gains of IoT will only be felt if the public and consumers trust their data is secure and not being used for nefarious means.

Whatever the future holds, LAN3 will be at the cutting edge of the networking revolution, helping our clients adjust to these seismic changes.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our clients, vendors, distributors and staff for their support over the last ten years.

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