A good network can give you an edge, but a poorly managed one is a fundamental business risk, says Bob Tarzey.
In the old days, those who had to ensure their organisation's networks were secure, reliable and sufficient for their needs were dealing with known resources and predictable usage.
Network equipment was confined to the organisation's various premises, the larger of which were linked via dedicated leased lines. Smaller locations were often deemed unworthy of network access.
The applications that ran over the network were nearly all planned and provisioned by the IT department. That has all changed in the past 20 years as the internet has become a fundamental business resource and employees have become far more mobile.
Today, ensuring the performance, reliability and security of network usage requires that a holistic view is taken of internal network resources, the internet and mobile network services.
Only when this is the case can the impact the network has on the end-to-end user experience be understood and a minimum acceptable service level aspired to.
The problem is exacerbated by unpredictable workloads. IT departments themselves have been loading networks with increasingly resource-hungry applications - for example, voice and videoconferencing.
They have also been cramming more and more processing power into datacentres through the use of virtualisation, which means more network resource is required per physical server. They are also using online resources to supplement internal infrastructure which requires a reliable and suitably broad interface to the internet.
On-demand services also make it easy for lines of business to provision their own applications and IT resources. Employees can do this provisioning too.
They access social media sites and fire up mobile apps at will, sometimes for good business reasons, but more likely for personal use. Such unplanned use makes ensuring network performance and security problematic, to say the least.
Data from Plan B Disaster Recovery reported in Quocirca's recent free report, Don't forget the network, shows that the most common reason for application failure is a network communications breakdown of some sort.
In other words, the network is the soft underbelly of most organisations' IT infrastructure. To get on top of this issue you have to...
Bob Tarzey is a director at user-facing analyst house Quocirca. As part of the Quocirca team, which focuses on technology and its business implications, Tarzey specialises in route to market for vendors, IT security, network computing, systems management and managed services.