Step Beyond the Connection

For the past 20 years if not longer, the network has been the lifeblood of enterprises as it is the foundation on which connectivity is built. It is hard to imagine that most any corporate organization can do business without connectivity, so much so that the networks’ power and ubiquity has made it a baseline assumption.

Unfortunately, IT spends too much time worrying about the connection and not enough on how we enable the services that use that connection. Therefore, it is the job of the IT department to shift the focus of the discussion away from “how do we connect” to the “what services will we provide everywhere’ conversation. Questions need to be answered such as: What services do we layer over our connection? What capabilities we empower? Essentially, enterprises are now expecting that IT to deliver over the top services (OTT) and not be mired in the weeds of the pumping.

As our connection infrastructure innovates over the next decade, IT needs to enable the service capabilities of the network rather than think about connectivity of the network. Much like the transition that happened when enterprise organizations shifted from thinking about the processor in the virtual world and started thinking in terms of processor “cores”. Networking is no longer linked to “can I get data there” – but rather holistically connected to what “software capabilities do I need to put there.” This is the real essence of edge computing.

In turn, when enterprises consider the siloed disconnected capabilities that exists in most traditional services and the difficulty in integration, scaling, distribution – moving to an edge driven infrastructure is both an extremely powerful concept and frightening due to the perceived challenges. Yet, this is a road we have been down before. Let’s consider the mobile device transformation were every user is always connected, and carrying company data, capabilities and processes in and out of the corporate boundary daily, the only way organizations could manage the network was to employ an IT strategy that dropped the traditional boundaries.  

If we create and deploy IT services to the edge, how do we enable our business agility? How do we enable the infrastructure to support the abstraction needed to deploy services without the overhead of siloed, disengaged, separated IT that is traditional?

Typical IT functions are complex due to the number of different settings, devices and interfaces required and is a skilled engineering activity. This inevitably leads to centralized deployment of services and resources, however the logical “distance” to central impacts user support, performance, capability and perception. It requires “that guy” to fix the problem or configure the settings. This is both expensive in terms of costs and human resources and isolates everything away from the central hub(s) because the deployment of staff, services, capabilities and devices to new locations takes time and is expensive. The answer lies in removing the operational overhead and complexity of traditional approaches. Operations driven by zero touch provisioning and stateless hardware removes the complexity of provisioning, configuration, enablement and of course integration.

Once the IT team steps beyond the confines of the traditional connections, the service becomes about running multiple physical service implementations. By enabling consistency distributed services, centrally managed, capable of running locally or via a central capability as appropriate, the result is that services and capabilities deployed in data centers or in the cloud provides for an agile, dynamic, environment that can change everything and deploy, configure, or remove at will. This in turn transforms IT within the organization from a set plumber that fix the pipes to designers that package capabilities to the users, customers, and experience chain.

Author's Bio

Rich Boyer

CISO, NTT Innovation Institute, Inc.