While most IT network pros report modest cutbacks in spending this year, they seem optimistic that will change for the better next year, according to an ongoing study from The Info Pro consultancy.

Of 150 IT professionals interviewed so far from a group of 250, 40 percent say they expect more funds in 2010 than this year, and another 40 percent say they expect flat funding, according to The Info Pro's director of networking and information security research Bill Trussell. About 20 percent expect spending declines.

Some say that any increased spending is due to making up for network refreshes that were planned but nixed this year and cannot wait another year, Trussell says. Some are stuck with network gear that is no longer supported and others have increased demands that require higher speed equipment, he says.

Earlier upgrades in certain aspects of a network may have an impact on other areas, forcing other spending. For instance, virtualisation projects may increase demand at sites whose firewalls are now inadequate to handle increased traffic.

WAN optimisation is one area where spending has kept a constant pace between 2008 and 2009, Trussell says. It is proving its worth as an element of improved application performance and a way to reduce WAN bandwidth needs or at least defer bandwidth increases.

Trussell says he expected to see an increase in demand for 10Gbit/s Ethernet switching based on higher core traffic levels due to larger data centres. "There's no data to support that," he says. "We haven't seen with virtualisation rollouts that this is coming to fruition."

Similarly, while there has been talk of merging storage network infrastructure with data network infrastructure, that doesn't seem to be panning out either, at least short term. Slightly more than a third of respondents say they either have created a single infrastructure already or plan to by year-end, but 55 percent say they will not do it in the near future because they're not sure the benefits justify the cost.

In some cases where businesses have outsourced their data and storage networking to separate providers, long-term contracts prevent merging the two networking technologies anytime soon, Trussell says.

Meanwhile, demand for network-access control (NAC) is stalling out, with 30 percent saying they are piloting the technology or have long- or short-term plans to deploy it. That is down from 40 percent who said the same thing last fall. And those who have installed at least some NAC technology in their networks has hovered around 25 percent for the past 12 to 18 months, he says.

Buyers seem to have trouble justifying NAC as a stand-alone purchase, but as they refresh their networking gear buy NAC-capable switches and routers. "We haven't seen network-wide NAC as overly successful," he says. That could change over time especially with single-vendor rollouts that avoid potential interoperability problems, he says.

In the next round of surveys this fall, The Info Pro plans to ask how extensively it is deployed within those businesses that say they have adopted NAC at least to some extent.\

Demand for 802.11n wireless technology has exceeded Trussell's expectations. He says he thought demand would hold off until the 802.11n standard is approved, but customers are buying it sooner. "There seems to be a pent-up demand for it," he says.

So far 19 percent of respondents say they have adopted the technology and have it deployed, 19 percent plan to deploy by the end of 2010, 9 percent have plans to do so sooner and 5 percent say they are piloting it, he says. "It's significant and in nine months that could double," he says.