The job of many enterprise communications/collaboration technologists has moved “up the stack”—to the point where that stack metaphor may not hit you very hard if you’re relatively new to the industry. The stack refers to the OSI model, which dates back to the dawn of the Internet and presents a seven-layer framework where the physical media of communications—copper or radio frequencies—sits at the bottom and applications at the top. IT and telecom people used to worry primarily about the lower layers of that stack: Were things physically connected as they should, how did communications traffic move across the network and get where it was supposed to be going, etc.
But if you’re an IT decision-maker for enterprise communications today, you may have a whole other set of worries that skew toward the top level: Is a communications application secure? Is it using APIs to integrate with other business applications? Even: Is it fun to use?
Nevertheless, you can’t ignore the network, which occupies the lower layers of the stack. After all, it’s definitely not fun to use an application where voices are garbled, video is jumpy, and connections drop.
The thing about the network is that it’s never been a set-it-and-forget-it kind of deal. An enterprise’s network is sort of a living organism, constantly changing and evolving in response to its environment—which in the case of the network, is dictated by what the users are doing on that network. And one of the biggest changes in recent years has been that users are doing a lot of their work via applications that reside in the cloud—maybe via an enterprise service your IT team has procured, or maybe via a freemium app that the user has… contributed.
What does this mean for application performance? John Bartlett, a longtime networking guru and now an independent consultant, has a post on No Jitter this week that offers a detailed discussion of the network factors your organization needs to consider as it moves to the cloud. If this is a topic your enterprise is grappling with today, I’d also recommend that you look for the regular contributions on No Jitter from Terry Slattery, who’s probably the leading expert on running real-time traffic over IP networks. Terry recently kicked off a Spearline-sponsored podcast series on why quality is so important for real-time communications services, and he’ll be on hand next month at Enterprise Connect, where he’s presenting several sessions on network management topics: delivering quality of service across disparate networks; network automation; and AI’s impact on network management.
As you can tell especially from those last two topics, network management may not sound like the sexiest topic, but it’s definitely one that hot emerging technologies like AI will affect. Still, one of the most important things that the folks who pay attention to the network can do is to understand the business issues and user concerns that they’re serving as they tend to the infrastructure. As Barlett writes with regard to the cloud migration: “Clearly, having the network team involved in transition planning is critical, and the earlier these challenges can be discussed, planned for, and executed, the better…. Having a new collaboration solution work seamlessly is critically important for user adoption, so getting it right the first time pays big dividends.”
So as Enterprise Connect devotes more time to higher-layer issues like user adoption and customer experience, we’ll also be trying to bring all the constituencies together, to ensure that everyone’s pulling in the same direction. I hope you’ll join us in Orlando to get the full immersive experience of Enterprise Connect’s amazing program and many opportunities to network with your peers.