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25 Top Network and IT Industry News Stories of 2011

2011 could be described as “The Year of…” many things. The tablet market heated up beyond the Apple iPad. 4G wireless took off with the emergence of big-time LTE networks. Governments and hackers screamed for attention by taking down networks, while IPv6 generated interest for giving the Internet a way to carry on.

The shift to cloud computing sped up. despite hiccups. Data centers took on new looks with the emergence of fabric switching architectures and a revamped Cisco. And the shape and faces of the industry changed as IBM, HP, Google and Apple all announced new leaders, and Microsoft, AT&T and Google made blockbuster acquisition bids. Here’s a look back at 25 stories that marked huge industry change in 2011.

LTE Everywhere

AT&T at the annual CES conference in Las Vegas formally announced its plans to launch LTE services during the summer of 2011 and the carrier followed through. AT&T also announced that it would be launching around 20 different "4G devices" this year, although many would actually run on its 3G HSPA+ wireless network. Separately, Verizon at CES showed off 10 LTE devices it would be selling in the first half of 2011, following its LTE network launch in December of 2010.

Meanwhile, Sprint and Clearwire steadily expanded their WiMAX network but aired plans for LTE, too. All of this made for more of a coming-of-age than coming-out party for 4G wireless at the 4G World event in Chicago during the fall.

Verizon+Apple at Last

Following month after excruciating month of rumors, Verizon and Apple finally got together in January and announced that the iPhone would be coming to Verizon's network in February. Surveys backed up the notion that there was much pent up demand for the iPhone on a network other than AT&T's, which had been criticized by many for dropping too many iPhone calls.

The Daily Show host Jon Stewart said the news put an end out our long national iPhone nightmare. In October, Sprint too began selling the iPhone. As of November, AT&T still dominated the market for both the iPhone 4 and 4S.

CREDIT: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Google Executive Go-Round

Google announced in January that it was shaking up top management, with longtime CEO Eric Schmidt becoming executive chairman and co-founder Larry Page taking hold of the CEO reins all in the name of streamlining the company's top-level decision making.

Google’s performance certainly didn’t suffer in the short term from the move, with the company posting big revenue and earnings increases in Q3, and the company continued to roll out new offerings, such as social networking service Google+, a new threat to Facebook. It's hard to argue that Schmidt, in coming to Google from Novell in 2001, didn't make one of the greatest career moves in the history of history.

Egypt Shuts Down the 'Net

Egypt's shutdown of the Internet and cell phone networks in an effort to diffuse protests against the government not only burned free speech advocates around the world, but it cost the country's economy at least $90 million, according to one report. It also raised the specter of an Internet "kill switch" being put into the U.S. President's hands. Egypt’s government wasn’t alone in resorting to Internet or cellphone network shutdowns in 2011, with Libya and Syria among the others following suit.

CREDIT: Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

Bring On IPv6

The Internet ran out of IPv4 address space in early February when the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority assigned two of the remaining blocks of IPv4 addresses - each containing 16.7 million addresses - to the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre. This action sparked an immediate distribution of the remaining five blocks of IPv4 address space, with one block going to each of the five Regional Internet Registries.

With IPv4 addresses gone, Internet policy makers ratcheted up the pressure on network operators to migrate quickly to IPv6, and World IPv6 Day, held in June, showed off the capabilities and readiness of the Internet Protocol update went off with nary a hitch. World IPv6 Day, which involved 400 organizations including big name content suppliers, carriers, hardware vendors and software makers, was said to be the most watched tech-related event since New Year's Eve 1999, when all eyes were on the Y2K bug.

Nokia Embraces Windows Phone 7

Microsoft and Nokia both have a lot to lose -- and gain -- by their mobile alliance, with the Finnish handset maker deciding to adopt Windows Phone 7 as its smartphone operating system. Nokia initially said it wouldn’t abandon its own platforms, Symbian and MeeGo, yet though even MeeGo’s most ardent backers (Intel, Linux Foundation, Limo Foundation) wound up taking a new direction with a technology called Tizen.

As for Windows Phone 7, reports of Microsoft momentum and lack of momentum seemed to alternate as the year went along.

Apple--and Steve Jobs--Intro iPad 2

The next generation of Apple's iPad tablet computer is sleeker and more powerful than the original, and boasts two cameras so that users can use Apple's FaceTime video chat. CEO Steve Jobs surprised the faithful in February by making the iPad 2 product introduction himself. The iPad 2 unveiling both excited and frustrated enterprise IT pros.

The product has helped to maintain Apple’s tablet market lead and was high on buyer wish lists for the 2011 holiday season, even as a nonstop stream of competitors – some weak, some like Amazon’s Kindle Fire with potential – flood the market.

CREDIT: REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

HBGary Goes After Anonymous--and Loses

Security company HBGary Federal set off an ugly chain of events in February when CEO Aaron Barr threatened to expose organizers of online activist group Anonymous, which at that time was focused on defending Wikileaks, but later in the year branched out to defend numerous causes. Anonymous taught Barr a hard lesson by breaking into his company’s network, publishing thousands of its emails (including details about plans to create a new kind of rootkit) and exposing personal data on Barr.

Barr had initially planned to expose Anonymous at the Security B-Sides event in San Francisco, but wound up bailing out of that, and HBGary wound up pulling out of the RSA Conference running at the same time in San Francisco. Barr did resurface later in the year with a different security company. Anonymous continued its assault on foes throughout the year, threatening everyone from Facebook to a Mexican drug cartel. Anonymous wasn’t the only game in town either, with another group called LulzSec wreaking havoc in late spring/early summer via websites belonging to the CIA, Sony and others.

Next: Android Malware Pain; RSA at Risk and more

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