Is Networking the New Killer App?

When companies talk about “killer applications,” they are referring to applications that are so critical to their organizations that if they do not have these applications, their organizations may not function at all.

Historically, killer apps have been software systems. Many act as operational “chains of command” that run through every department of the company. Common examples are Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and SCM (Supply Chain Management), while others like ERM (Enterprise Risk Management) help companies assess the risks of business decisions they plan to make.

In each case, the supporting IT functions that enable these important applications – such as storage and networking – have rarely been considered. Instead, they provided the invisible backbone that was part of the system’s deployment in IT, but which management hadn’t considered.

Now this may change.

The deployment of IoT (Internet of Things), WI-FI 6, and 5G networks is bringing new capabilities that enable internal business processes and e-commerce to almost every company, and these improvements are only being achieved due to network improvements.

Should the network itself be considered a killer app?

Network as a new enterprise drive chain

Describing systems like ERP and SCM as corporate drive chains always makes sense because these systems touch every function in the company and enforce business processes throughout the organization.

This will continue to be the case with these systems, but it is also necessary to consider the network as a new organizational chain of command. This is because of its necessity as an enabler for automated IoT and industrial manufacturing, e-commerce, utility and environment tracking and checks, fieldwork, sales, engineering, etc. In short, without a strong and secure network, most business operations today simply will not work.

New web-based applications

How companies use the network depends on their type of business, but most either enhance or consider enhancing network capabilities in these three areas:

1. Migration to 5G

Over time, organizations want to move to 5G networks. This will help them manage the volumes of data they can expect to see every day at the speed their business operations require. Stock trading transactions are one example that requires 5G. Industrial manufacturing with IoT data pouring in from a myriad of robots, devices, devices, and equipment is another thing. With the move to more remote employees using video conferencing and collaboration tools, the speed of 5G, which can be up to 100 times the speed of 4G, will also improve the accuracy and reliability of these applications.

Unfortunately, 5G is expensive. Few organizations will be able to afford a total “copy and replace” of existing 4G networks (or less), so they will only have to plan carefully for how they will gradually transition to 5G, and what business processes and systems they will need to support first.

2. The internal implementation of WI-FI 6

WI-FI 6 allows multiple devices and applications to use different streams of the WI-FI frequency band.

What this means for organizations is that more bandwidth-intensive applications and business processes can run simultaneously.

Education is one of the first implementers of WI-FI 6, which should support many simultaneous broadcasts of video training and education. As organizations use more unstructured big data like video, there will be a need to move these heavy data payloads from point to point within the four walls of the organization. WI-FI 6 can do this.

However, like 5G, the deployment of WI-FI 6 is expensive. It requires new investments in network infrastructure, and agreement among business stakeholders about who gets WI-FI 6 first, while other apps (and departments) wait their turn and stay on older, slower WI-FI networks.

WI-FI 6 deployment planning should include strategic meetings with key business decision makers to ensure everyone is on the same page as to who gets WI-FI 6 first. And how much will be spent on it.

3. Cloud infrastructure

Businesses use multiple clouds, and will require robust networks to ensure that cloud resources and systems are always available to support the business.

The need for strong networks with the cloud is everywhere. Vendors of major business systems such as ERP are moving to cloud-based versions of their software. The cloud also supports IoT, video, and voice collaboration tools. The cloud is increasingly used for storage by businesses because it is available on demand and does not require an exception in the budget for an unexpected capital investment. But If the cloud infrastructure fails, all of these systems and resources will likely be shut down.

For this reason, the strategic planning of the network should take place at several levels:

  • First, there must be an adequate investment in network infrastructure to support the network security, resources, and bandwidth needed for mission-critical enterprise applications.
  • Second, there should be backup networks and failover plans built into the disaster recovery plans of organizations.
  • Third, training and development of network personnel may be required so that network expertise can be expanded beyond enterprise walls into the cloud domain.

How CIOs should deal with networks

As companies now rely on their networks to deliver critical information technology, networking is no longer a secondary function. Instead, it became the new killer app.

This places new demands on CIOs to ensure that networks have a front seat on the strategy and budget tables.

Since most network managers come from highly technical backgrounds, they may need to be re-orientated and retrained in management and soft skills to meet the requirements that will be placed upon them as they sit in meetings with CEOs, CFOs, etc., and invite them to explain in plain English why a topology or specific policy of the network.

Within IT itself, it may also be a good time to review the current social hierarchy of the organization. Historically, the set of applications has always had the highest status and the highest strategic role. This role may now have to be shared with network professionals as well.

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