- The convergence of network and IT in the enterprise may be inevitable, but it is a very slow process.
- The persisting split means that network operators are not considered IT suppliers, but they deserve examination.
It has been obvious for many years now that the systems to deliver and manage applications in enterprises would become less disparate and more intertwined. We have been operating under the assumption that the computing, storage and software platforms used to support applications would blend together with the network and telecommunications platforms used to distribute them. Certainly, the increasingly virtualized and distributed nature of most business organizations mandates that network and connectivity concerns are no longer an afterthought in application architecture, but an integral concern. As a theory, this convergence of IT and communications systems is just about irrefutable, but is it really happening?
Yes, it is, albeit at a very high level. It is true that the notion of planning an application rollout without embedding the networking implications is just about unthinkable. Moreover, the potential benefits of cloud approaches – for computing, storage and certain applications – have networking and communications as their soul. However, it is also true that the disciplines of applications or IT and the domains of networking and communications remain in practice quite apart in many or most enterprise organizations.
Current Analysis conducted a comprehensive study of 1,000 enterprises this year on the subject of cloud deployment thinking. The number of businesses around the world either using cloud services now or planning to use them in the next twelve months is predictably very high. The study is full of fascinating information, but one item that jumps out is how separate networking and communications are from IT. Network service providers do not, apparently, leap to mind when IT buyers think about ‘infrastructure as a service’ (compute, storage), and they do not even register on the radar when considering ‘software as a service’ (SaaS). The service providers do fare quite a bit better when the subject is unified communications services, but that is blindingly obvious; telecoms and network convergence has occurred, truly, but networking and IT remain discrete functions. (For more information on the study, click here.)
The temptation here is to urge IT buyers to accelerate IT and network convergence, to reap the benefits of integrated thinking and planning. I’m going to resist that temptation, however, knowing that the blending of the disciplines will happen over time and at the pace appropriate for various enterprises and their organizations. Still, I will recommend that IT executives and managers take a closer look at what network service providers have to offer in terms of both IT and network services. These suppliers have been desperately building out their IT capabilities in recent years – in anticipation of the aforementioned convergence – and may offer some truly unique differentiators that leverage their network assets. You should grill them into proving these unique benefits, but they have to be on your list in order to be grilled – and they should be.