Cover Story Package

Social Networks Become Tools for Network Management, Car Care

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines  |  August 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 2011 issue of Unified Communications Magazine

Social networking is a great way to communicate with friends, family and business contacts. Now these platforms are expanding to bring cars and even networking gear into the mix.

Enabling companies to leverage these kinds of platforms to manage their networks ties into the communications megatrends of not only social networking, but also of cloud computing and mobility, says Vala Afshar, chief customer officer of Enterasys Networks. Introducing the machine world to the social enterprise lets businesses be more productive, have more real-time access, and better understand their connected machines, he says.

That’s why Enterasys Networks has come out with Isaac. This software, running on the company’s network management suite, translates SNMP and other communications to social media language to allow for better visibility and control of the network. IT staff can then manage the corporate LAN via a social media interface, which is the way these folks typically communicate anyway.

"With one sixth of humanity using either Facebook (News - Alert) or Twitter, it's only natural that new use cases would be developed for social networking platforms,” says Chris Crowell, president and CEO of Enterasys Networks. “By allowing network devices such as routers, switches and applications to securely join the social network, IT can use these familiar and accessible interfaces for more efficient, real-time interaction and communication, providing automated and predictive responses to network issues."

Members of an IT staff can have a work tab on a social media site, and most of the communications available via that interface will come from network elements, which will report information on their health and status in regular language. For example, if a machine goes offline it can send a tweet to an IT staffer’s smartphone so that worker automatically and quickly is alerted of the situation.

“The IT world is ever changing. As a CIO, I have to keep up with the changing trends and technologies, including social media,” says Steven Arender, technology coordinator for Danville Schools (Virginia).  “A constant concern for me is staff retention and recruitment. The days of having to remember CLI and complex commands are now less important with a tool like Project Isaac. Most people are very familiar with Facebook and Twitter and they can be used for effective network management on day one with Project Isaac.”

In addition to Facebook and Twitter, Isaac supports LinkedIn (News - Alert) and Chatter."Enterasys has been a long-time customer and was one of the very first to use our private, secure corporate social network, Chatter," says Marc Benioff (News - Alert), chairman and CEO, "Integrating with Enterasys' Isaac will help us further differentiate Chatter in the market as an essential tool to run a global business. We think this will be a game changer for the traditional network management model we see today."

Not only does Isaac marry social networking and network management, it also can bring other resources into the mix to create various types of mashups. Here’s an example of one being used by Siemens (News - Alert) Enterprise Communications, the parent company of Enterasys Networks: If a network element tweets that it is failing, Google Maps is leveraged to include in that tweet the location of the failed device. That’s important, considering the company has thousands of field engineers.

“You’re enabling real-time response to business needs anytime, anywhere,” says Afshar. “This brings predictability. It eliminates the guesswork.”

Using social media interfaces also can allow less experienced IT staff, or even non-IT staff, to control the network, says Afshar. For example, professors at a university leveraging Isaac can shut off wireless access to students during exams. In the past that required professors to input a request with IT staff at the university, Afshar explains; but with Isaac, professors can go into the platform and make that temporary change themselves.

“Seton Hill University has prided itself on being on the cutting edge of technology, looking for ways to leverage new technologies for the betterment of our faculty and students,” says Phil Komarny, CIO of Seton Hill University. “We were one of the first colleges to institute a program whereby we gave away iPads to incoming freshman, providing us a first-mover advantage in the higher education market. We see the introduction of Isaac from Enterasys as a tremendous innovation that will make us even more nimble. We will now have the ability to respond in real-time to any problem with the network and can do so in an extremely customizable, secure and easy manner via social media."Of course, education and telecom are just two verticals in which Isaac can be leveraged. In fact, by the end of next month, Afshar says, Enterasys expects to have Isaac deployments in every major vertical, including, health care, financial, K-12, higher education, and with municipalities. Isaac became available to Enterasys NMS customers last month, and as a promotion, Isaac is complimentary to early adopters until the fourth quarter of 2011. Pricing for Isaac will start at $9,995 beginning in 2012. (News - Alert) is another company that has been working to bring non-human entities into the social media mix. In fact, Enterasys and have been working together on a social networking-related trouble ticket application. also recently has been promoting its efforts to make automobiles socially aware. and Toyota Motor Corp. in May announced an initiative called Toyota Friend. It will be a private social network for that connects Toyota customers with their cars, their dealership, and with Toyota.

Powered by Salesforce Chatter, Toyota Friend will provide product and service information, car care tips, and notification via “tweet”-like alerts to Toyota owners if their vehicle requires maintenance. Toyota Friend also will enable users to extend their communication to others through public social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

Toyota Friend initially will be offered in Japan in Toyota’s electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles due in 2012.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi