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November 24, 2009

NEI's Jeff Hudgins Discusses Facing Support Challenges in a Distributed "Non-IT" Network

By Jeff Hudgins, VP of Engineering, NEI, Inc.

Distributed non-IT networks offer some of the best opportunities for increased revenues for communication application developers, but at the same time present some of the most difficult challenges. The risk associated with support and maintenance for both the hardware and software can quickly erase any profits for the developer. End users have growing demand for products to be connected, managed, serviced and tracked intelligently in remote areas of the globe. However, connecting to and managing these assets to extract business value for the end user has been challenging with the piece-meal solutions on the market.
To achieve a comprehensive solution the developer must consider three primary elements:
1. The Assets (hardware and software communications).
2. Communications from the asset to the enterprise or HQ.
3. Human interface to the asset to maintain uptime and business processes.
Any break between these primary elements will escalate costs and headaches for both the application developer and the end user. To avoid this pitfall, here are some industry “best practices” being used today:
  • Combining the application software with the operating system and hardware. As applications are deployed, they compound management for the non-IT environment, but tightly coupling the software and hardware reduces the complexity.
  • Health monitoring. All hardware platforms will fail at some point. By having remote management and monitoring capabilities in place to predict and prevent failures will dramatically reduce the support pain and related costs associated with unexpected down time.
  • Updating the solution. All software applications will need updating. Creating a “phone home” to automatically update the asset in the event of a hardware or software malfunction, crash, runtime error or system boot failure will save the end user time and money.
Final Score
Distributed “non-IT” networks will continue to grow. The need for increased communications in healthcare and retail digital media is evident. The developers that embrace the best practices for hardware/software integration, remote management and updating capabilities will be in the best position to capture these emerging markets.
Jeff Hudgins is VP of Product Management at NEI, Inc. This column first appeared in the October 2009 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine.  

Jeff Hudgins, Vice President of Engineering at NEI, writes the Tech Score column for TMCnet. To read more of Jeff’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Marisa Torrieri

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