Virtualization and cloud talk just woke the sleeping giant, networking. For too long, we were so isolated in our L2-L4 world and soundly sleeping as VMs were created and a distant cousin was born, vSwitches. Sure, we can do a little of this and little of that in this virtual world, but the reality is everything is very manually driven and a one-off process. For example, vendors talk about moving policies from one port to another when a VM moves, but they don’t discuss policies moving around automatically on links from edge switches to the distribution switches. Even management tools are scrambling to solve issues within the data center. In this game of catch, I’m hearing people banter the word “app” around. Server personnel to networking administrators are trying to relate to an app. Network management tools, traffic sensors, switches, wan optimization are being developed to measure, monitor, or report on the performance of apps in some form or another.

Why is “app” the common language? Why are networks relating to “apps”? With everything coming down the pike, we are designing for yesterday instead of tomorrow. Infrastructure and operations professionals will have deal with:

  • Web 2.0tools. Traditional apps can alienate users when language and customs aren’t designed into the enterprise apps, yet no one app can deal with sheer magnitude of languages. Web 2.0 technologies — such as social networking sites, blogs, wikis, video-sharing sites, hosted services, web applications, mashups, and folksonomies — connect people with each other globally to collaborate and share information, but in a way that is easily customized and localized. For example, mashups allow apps to be easily created in any language and data sourced from a variety of locations.
  • Distributed and mobile workforce. Enabled by UC, video, and collaboration tools, enterprises have the option to tap into talent worldwide instead of within 75 miles of their campus. I&O managers will see companies use more contractual employees instead of full-time to match business cycles like the retail industry.
  • Cloud. Yes, there is a ton of hype around it, but enterprises are embracing the options. Small to large organizations could contract and grow as the market demands on the fly. There are no boundaries to where a service may ignite. Advance applications and services may be partitioned between the cloud and data center.
  • Bring your own device (BYOD) to work. Already there are companies that are looking to offload the expense, ownership, and complexity to their employees by empowering them. They will get to bring their own device to work, and the company will provide virtual desktop.
  • Virtualization. The technology is only at the beginning of its infancy. We think in terms of VM = apps, but soon apps will fracture and spread across the hardware.

As Forrester highlights in The Future Of Online Experience and Experience-Based Differentiation, I&O managers will be pushed to create an environment that is:

  • Customized by the end user. Users will not only control what they get online, they'll control the form that they get it in to a much greater degree than they do today.
  • Aggregated at the point of use. Content, function, and data will be pulled from different sources and combined at a common destination to create a unique experience.
  • Relevant to the moment. This customized, aggregated content will appear on the device that's best suited to the customer's context at a given point in time.

 With the world moving to this type of experience, I&O managers need to think about moving their focus from apps to users. Yes, it is a difficult process, but companies like Apple, Disney, and Southwest outmaneuvered their competition not by offering a new technology but by focusing on their customer, the user. It’s only a matter of time.