Consumer dynamics dictate direction of network decisions

IN today’s IT world, apps are king, and consequently, this has caused the dynamics of network management to evolve significantly.

“In the past, network infrastructure and application infrastructure have often been viewed as two distinct things within an organisation,” says Doug Roberts, managing director of product strategy at network solutions provider, Fluke Networks.

“But whether you realise it or not, these two infrastructures are very interdependent in terms of service delivery. The ability to deliver services and apps to end users now requires a new approach to managing and monitoring these networks. More specifically, organisations need to change their thinking and stop viewing these networks in isolation.”

In Roberts’ opinion, the effectiveness of an IT network ought to be measured based on the end user experience of the app or service concerned. However, he says this is a fairly new concept to those whose primary expertise is in networks.

“This fundamentally changes the way network teams go about problem solving. They have to evaluate a very subjective form of measurement. There’s nothing objective about end user experience,” Roberts says, adding that what may be great in the eyes of one person could be completely unacceptable to another.

“In effect, what we’re measuring is how fast the infrastructure responds to end users’ request for data,” he explains. “Understanding how end users are consuming your app or service is key. Apps are the lifeblood of most businesses today and they’re critical revenue generators for a company. The network represents the backbone for the delivery of these services.”

Consumer centric

Roberts refers to this trend as the “consumerisation of IT”. He believes that it came about due to the ongoing popularity of mobile devices.

“Consumer applications are now creating end user expectations for corporate applications,” he says.

As an example, he compares the experience of a mobile user while playing a game on his smartphone as compared to what he goes through when using a corporate website.

In order to ensure that the network performance of an organisation matches the expectations of end users, Roberts advises companies to work at identifying the key measurements and areas of visibility that it needs to track to be able to improve its end user experience.

“This is the litmus test for whether your network is working properly or not,” he says. “Think about what impacts end users and how the infrastructure affects the delivery of apps and services.”

Roberts says it’s crucial to have an intelligent infrastructure in place that ensures that decisions are not made solely based on things such as hardware assets.

In addition, although the speed of the network is undoubtedly an important consideration, he says that other factors such as bandwidth costs and criteria used for decisions on IT equipment purchasing are also equally crucial.

“It’s really about efficiency and effectiveness,” he says. “It can’t just be purely a dollars and cents decision. Cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better decision.”

To illustrate his point, Roberts highlights the experiences of small and medium businesses (SMBs) who were early adopters of cloud and co-location services.

Previously, he says such organisations had hosted their apps and services locally, but subsequently opted to migrate it to the cloud as it is perceived as the less expensive option.

However, due to the physical location of the vendor’s datacentres, he says latency issues could surface which may inevitably cause frustrated customers to turn to an organisation’s competitors to meet their demands instead.

New direction

In line with current trends such as the consumerisation of IT, Roberts shares that Fluke Networks is now reshaping the way it delivers its products and services to its customers.

“We are now looking at ways of delivering our products in the form of Software As A Service (SAAS), which is now becoming very popular,” he says.

“Instead of customers making capital purchases of our equipment, they can now just utilise the visibility we provide as a service. They can sign up for it and we will host the hardware and software and deliver it in an operational expenditure model as a monthly subscribed service.”

The company, whose list of renowned products includes Visual Truview, an Application Aware Network Performance Management (AANPM) solution and Optiview XG, a network analysis tablet, plans to offer the new SAAS solution available to its clients by the end of June this year.

“This will be a worldwide launch of the service,” Roberts says. “It will be SAAS for what we’ve delivered to customers in the past.”

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