Budgets are flat, while overall complexity, traffic, applications, and security threats keep growing. Fortunately, there are a number of fundamental technology-enabled transformations that will lead to IT simplification and elimination of time, space, and quality of experience barriers to lower TCO, stronger customer engagement, and increased employee productivity as did digital communications in the 70s, IP/Ethernet networking in the 80s, and browsers and ubiquitous wireless in the 90s.
Converged networking forms the foundation for these transformations and is evolving to autonomic networks. Autonomic networks are real-time secure multimedia networks that can dynamically adjust to changing conditions to optimize network performance and user quality of experience. They allow people to specify what they want in application and business terms, rather than in terms of technology-defined parameters. These networks proactively discover, configure, monitor, and act to bring convergence with simplicity to end users and operators. They heal, secure, tune, and optimize the networking environment, which is continuously adjusted with a closed-loop feedback control system. A wide range of technologies will make this happen, including discovery/auto-provisioning, admission controls, flow-based intelligence, and closed-loop policy-driven layered defense.
For IT, autonomous networking reduces TCO and finger problems that impact security and reliability. For end users, autonomic networking brings plug-and-play to secure application-aware networks, in contrast with traditional best effort, non-secured plug-and-play. For business, it increases agility in moving towards an everything-networked world with all its benefits and in leveraging the three transformational discontinuities discussed below.
The Hyper-Interactive World
Hyper-interactivity leverages real-time converged communications to fundamentally transform how users collaborate and how enterprises engage their customers. Unified communications and SIP will do for real-time interhuman multimedia collaboration what the Web and HTML did for information access.
SIP is a control protocol that initiates, modifies, and terminates communication sessions with one or more participants across a broad range of media. SIP technologies form the basis of the industrys IP-centric Unified Communications architecture, which brings together telephony, video, conferencing, application sharing, presence, instant messaging, and personal agents. The latter allows you to be known by name rather than a bank of phone numbers and addresses. It also allows you to control who can reach you, and how and when. The network does the rest.
Virtualization and Elimination of Distance
Virtualization disassociates control and signaling, as well as users and the devices they use. It also eliminates physical barriers to delivering applications that support business processes. Virtualization impacts many aspects of the enterprise by eliminating geographic boundaries across the employee, customer, and supplier base.
For example, mobility allows users to communicate wherever they are, however they are connected, and with whatever device they may be using. After all, work is something you do, not somewhere you go customer service should know no boundaries. Wireless technologies will deliver ubiquitous broadband access through wireless mesh networks, mobile WiMax, and multi-Mbps public services. Mobile SIP VPN clients, dual mode devices (WiFi & public wireless), and location-based services are key enablers of virtualization.
Role-based identity attaches users rights to the roles they have within organizations, while federations address the rising need to dynamically establish trusted relationships with partners, suppliers, and customers. Together they enhance business operation and enable new opportunities. For example, business processes are often linked to phone numbers. As carriers move from device-level identity (phone number) to federated user-level (name) identity, a trusted and unique subscriber name will be delivered to transform this process to be customer-centric.
Webification and Application Convergence
Webification is the communication enablement of business applications (e.g., ERP, document handling, work flow) through Web services, open APIs and SIP. This will result in applications that take real-time collaboration to new heights, bringing users and applications closer together into a new interhuman web. For example, a supply chain management application that detects a change to a critical supply metric could initiate a collaborative session and deliver relevant data to stakeholders, hastening decision making. When combined with sensor networking (including location and RFID), the result will be new environmentally-aware networking and applications.
Already, agent-assisted and self-serve multimedia contact centers are on the verge of dramatically changing the customer experience. These will deliver engaged applications that are media adaptive, time critical and anticipatory, and will take customer service to the next level.
Managing IT Does Matter
These architectural discontinuities are highly inter-related. They also provide a tremendous opportunity for enterprises to take advantage for business advantage. The end game is the real-time virtual enterprise, lowering the time to market, time to decision, time to revenue, time to beat the competition, and ultimately time saved for the customer.IT
Tony Rybczynski is Director of Strategic Enterprise Technologies at Nortel. He has over 30 years experience in the application of packet network technology. Phil Edholm is the Nortel CTO & VP Network Architecture - Enterprise and is responsible for vision and architectural directions. For more information, please visit www.nortel.com.
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