Ten years ago, if I had stood up in front of IT professionals and said that their company would allow employees to bring their own devices to work in lieu of corporate-owned devices, I would have been heckled out of the room, but look at where we are today. Well, I am here to say that it won’t stop at personal devices or applications. The user edge of the network (where users and mobile devices connect, not servers or storage) is slowly shifting under the control of business and is an integral part of the ecosystem that shapes a customer’s experience. Already, non-IT employees are doing traditional networking tasks like:

  • Granting wireless network access. Controlling who gets on the network had always been an IT function, until wireless came out. Assistants, business greeters, and other employees can give guests Internet access with all the wireless solutions on the market today.
  • Setting up networks. Today, manufacturing engineers design manufacturing lines and deploy automation equipment with built-in Ethernet/IP capabilities, such as motion sensors, energy monitors, and logic boards. The design and management of that part of the network falls under their domain.

This doesn’t mean networking teams will disappear, but they will evolve from being the control (or choke) point to being embedded into the business and empowering them with the Ethernet. Here are four examples of networking vendors that recognize the shift and that are helping networking organizations shift control to other infrastructure and operations professionals and the business:

  • Aerohive. On-line retailers continue to siphon more and more revenue from traditional retailers; these brick-and-mortar businesses are scrambling to stop the bleeding by changing their business models through mobile engagement. The strategy is more than just offering customers free Wi-Fi in the store but creating a customized store experience by meshing together Wi-Fi, location-based technologies, mobile devices, customer data, employees, and applications. Taking a cue from Steve Jobs’ drive toward simplicity, Aerohive enables infrastructure and operations teams to focus on enhancing the customer experience by leveraging a simple and intuitive interface, not wasting precious time by tweaking an endless set of wireless knobs.
  • Aruba Networks. A casino can be an overwhelming place for customers, with plethora of restaurants, shows, clubs, and gambling spread over miles of multi-level floor space. These businesses realize that if they can decrease the amount of time a customer spends walking around aimlessly they can increase their revenue and improve their customer’s experience. This is why big resorts are turning to Aruba’s Meridian solution to remove the frustration customers can feel navigating through casino mazes and enhance their experience by taking traditional location-based information reserved for network administrators and putting it right into the hands of the casino customer. Customers can locate and chart out directions to their places of choice.
  • BlueCat. Multiple times I’ve been at conferences where I couldn’t get an Internet connection because of the lack of IP addresses available for all the devices trying to connect; nothing frustrates conference-goers and downgrades their conference experience more than not getting on-line. However, IP addresses are finite, and the pools of IP addresses have to be moved around quickly to the right hotel or resort when groups come in. BlueCat’s DNS, DHCP, and IP address management tools help network teams to stay in sync with business demands.
  • Extreme Networks. To combat the effects of soft couches and big LCD TVs, the NFL is leveraging Extreme’s wireless analytics capabilities to enhance fans’ experience beyond what they have today in the home or stadium. Based on wireless information, stadium operators can provide an immersive experience for fans with value-added applications, which might be everything from in-seat ordering, bathroom wait time notifications, unique camera angles for viewing replays, and more.

Take these examples and challenge the networking vendors on what more they can do to facilitate this change, because the arrival of the business-owned network is closer than you think. The Internet of Things puts this at your front door. Take a look at the Forrester Report A Tsunami Of Empowerment Will Hit Your Network With The Internet Of Things for examples of professionals outside of IT who will be using Ethernet to transform their industry.