The new world of IT networking.
Recent announcements from HP, IBM and Sun all foretell a new and evolutionary concept in IT. The underpinning of this concept is the remoulding of the vertical silos of technology within a company into a horizontal structure based on business imperatives. In the new world of IT, the main business tenets of the corporation become intertwined with the technology to form an operationally cohesive structure that will help a company achieve its revenue and profit goals. In this way, IT finally will return to its roots as an integral business profit tool rather than a business expense.
Too often in business presentations, the network is alluded to as a "cloud" but never made a part of the business integration effort. While the computing industry has focused on meeting customers' needs for application integration and increased availability the network industry has remained out of touch with customer demand.
The network community must begin to realise that it is not the centre of the IT universe, but only a segment of its operational processes. Network applications, including management, operations, signalling, convergence and security, should be developed and interface with one another using software industry standards rather than proprietary network standards. Just like the TDM, hardware-based PBX, so should the software-based Internetwork Operating System become a proprietary networking legacy. Open standards "rule", with Linux becoming an operating system of choice for embedded systems and a viable option for servers, and XML-based messaging the lingua franca of all applications. Integration of legacy applications, databases, development tools and even operating environments now can be accomplished using XML.
Heterogeneity is a way of life in IT. The new world of IT will kick it up a notch by taking the concept of heterogeneity into hybrid architectures of customer-owned applications networked with third-party services or partner equipment and software. IT environments such as IBM's on-demand architecture will not only accommodate legacy or hybrid structures, but also exploit them using XML.
Another tenet of the new world of IT is virtualisation. One cannot implement this concept correctly without an optimised network. The IT community never addresses network issues such as latency. The assumption is that the customer's transport bandwidth is infinite, always will meet demand and availability, and network techniques such as caching or quality of service (QoS) will be in place to control network latency problems. Unfortunately, carrier transport services are not free and on demand, nor are 10Gbit/sec LAN upgrades. The network costs associated with achieving compute and storage virtualisation are not minimal, nor is the task mundane. The complexity, from a LAN and WAN perspective, makes the issue of voice convergence seem simple.
Paramount to the success of this new world is the integration of IT and wired or wireless network management to form a single seamless entity within the corporate business structure. Policy associated with application workflow ? coupled with network access security and QoS, and managed under a single service-level agreement ? will be linked to its corporate business value, such as speed of revenue recognition and profitability of the transaction sequence. Distributed automation technology, used in tasks such as resource allocation, workflow scheduling, capacity measurement, fault prediction/isolation and security, is now part of integrated IT management rather than today's isolated islands of systems and network management.
The introduction of on-demand, adaptive and utility computing has changed the rules of networking. The development, integration, operations and management of this new IT environment must be viewed from a business perspective and therefore measured as an integral part of all corporate business practices. Times have changed; the phrase "the network is the computer" no longer will be valid in the new world of IT.
Dzubeck is president of Communications Network Architects, an industry analysis firm in Washington, DC
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