In this ESG360 Video, ESG's Bob Laliberte and Mark Peters discuss current issues and trends in the world of Networking.
Read the related ESG Blog: Talking Networking, Part 1 (ESG 360 Video Series)
Announcer: The following is an ESG 360 video.
Mark: There's so much focus these days in IT if you like the big picture. The outcomes and so on, but sometimes it's important to look back at the individual components and specializations because, of course, the sum of those is how we get those outcomes. So much as I do want to come back to that big picture at the end of this conversation, I'm sitting with some of my colleagues, today Bob Laliberte, who covers all of infrastructure but for today we're gonna focus on networking, Bob. Particularly for people who perhaps don't spend all their lives as focused on networking as you are. So even that leads me to the first question. It's very easy to say, "Oh you cover networking." What does that even mean? What is the breadth of networking?
Bob: So that's a great question because I think in the past networking has always been considered the basic plumbing. Things that you connected with in your data center and then maybe you outsource to service providers if you had to make any connection outside of that. I think what we're seeing is a real shift in what's happening and a far greater relevancy of networking within the enterprise. And within that enterprise, what I'm talking about is that for the last, I don't know, 10 to 12 years there's been a strong focus on consolidating. Bringing everything into the data center. A lot of the focus on networking was all about building up bigger pipes within the data center itself, and now what we're seeing is the pendulum swinging back and a lot of distribution of the data, distribution of the workloads, to either the Cloud or to remote locations. Meaning the branch offices, etc. As a result of that, the network is taking on new relevancy. So not only connecting just internally but connecting to the Cloud, connecting to the branch, connecting to more devices like IoT devices instead of just computers and devices. So there's a lot moving, a lot happening right now...
Mark: Well, and of course sorry to jump, but wireless as well? So networking doesn't have to be physical? Because it used to be so much about how many wires...
Mark: ...went in the back of a box.
Bob: Everything had to be wired and now you're seeing a shift to almost 100% wireless for that connectivity layer.
Bob: And that's also for not only just people and their devices, but also for the IoT devices, as well, being connected over wireless.
Mark: Yeah. So if I think of, you know...you're a baby but I spent a long time in IT, but it really was all those wires and used to be almost, like, one wire to one box or between two boxes. And then multiple wires. But these days it really is...it's, I feel like, a web.
Bob: Yeah, you could almost look at it as a whole mesh network now of wireless connectivity covering not only inside but outside. So in campus environments and everyone points usually to higher ed as a great example of that. It used to be if you wanted to connect to...have a computer and connect to the internet you had to go to specific offices and then slowly they started rolling out wiring buildings, and then potentially maybe the dorms. At a point now, I think, we're seeing is that organizations and these colleges and universities aren't even bothering to run wires in dorms anymore. Everything is wireless across internally and across the campuses.
Mark: And as universities go, so go every big corporation, every big application that's out there. Whether it's our personal lives or whatever because we all expect to be connected to everything, and we forget that networking is what's underneath that.
Bob: Correct and that...see, they want to have that same experience they're getting from the service providers locally on a campus. And by that I mean transitioning from your dorm to the cafeteria to one of the academic buildings, to be able to be on Wi-Fi the entire time without any interruptions.
Mark: I hadn't really even thought about that. It's interesting, yeah. So you mean it's not just establishing a link, but it's like a virtual link that you can take with you. That you keep dynamically as you move.
Bob: As you...exactly. As you move through. So it's all about...ultimately it's all about the experience. How do I have a great experience when I'm on my wireless connectivity? Whether it be in my home, whether it be in the office, or whether it be at a college or university.
Mark: Yeah, and we might already have touched on the second thing I wanted to ask you but I'd still like to get your answer to it. Is what is really driving networking? What should someone who doesn't focus on it everyday know about it right now?
Bob: So I think that the biggest thing for people to focus on from a networking perspective is that connectivity and experience. Everything needs to be connected, whether that's an application to a user, an application to a machine, machine to a machine, device to device, etc. It's all about the connectivity and how well you can establish that securely and maintain it moving forward, and I think a lot of the other drivers that are having that, we already talked about the distribution of the compute. So we're seeing things being stretched out. People are going directly from the branch up to the Cloud. So from a technology perspective, probably one of the biggest things that's taken off has been SD-WAN. So software-defined wide area networks and that ability to leverage the internet along with dedicated MPLS lines to connect to the Cloud. To connect to branch offices. And what that really allows is a greater level of service. Again, it's all about the experience, but also the flexibility to have as a backup or alternative routes using the internet.
Mark: All right. Is everything you've just described just about doing the plumbing better or if we achieve everything you've just described, does that allow IT the experience, the output, the organizational value to be improved?
Bob: Yeah, no, that's a great point because we're not just doing this for the sake of better networking, greater connectivity coverage. We're doing it because we want to create a better outcome. We're doing it because we want to provide a better experience for our users, whoever they may be. So some of the really cool examples would be leveraging a wireless technology, say, in the healthcare or hospital where traditionally the staff would go around, do their rounds, collect the patients' vitals, record them on paper, go back to a central station where they had a wired connectivity, punch all that in. So clearly time consuming, etc. You're now developing point of care apps which will go on wireless devices, iPads, etc., tablets that now the nursing staff can walk around with and at that exact moment that they're capturing the vitals can be inputted. And just driving a lot more effectiveness and efficiency at the course of their day.
From a retail perspective, organizations are now able to deploy wireless and leverage Bluetooth beacons and things like that to provide a differentiated shopping experience. And by that I mean they're able to track the location of the shopper and be able to do real time offer management. So as you're walking past something, to have it directly impact...bring up on your phone to say, "By the way, if you didn't know, something down this aisle is 20% off. You might want to check it out." And that might be based on their prior shopping habits, things like that that they have from a loyalty app that they have on their phone. So it's all about how do you get to the consumer or the user that better experience and a differentiated experience when they're in their store? And so that's what organizations are looking for.
Mark: Yeah, it's really interesting because, I mean, I think sometimes one can look on the...from a retailer's perspective, you look on the negative side of now I can check the Amazon price while I'm walking around the department store, but what you've just described is really interesting. Because if you can make that shopping, to use your word, experience more relevant to me immediately, then you have a way to keep business. To generate more business.
Bob: Right, and it just provides, again, that differentiated in-store experience for them.
Mark: And I think, again, I mean and perhaps this is where we'll close off for now, but what's really interesting and what Bob's pointing out is that I think it's so easy to assume that what you've just described is about "the application." None of that matters if it can't get connected to someone, which is about this magical thing called networking.
Mark: Bob, thank you very much.