I've talked before about the rise of "enterprise technology"(ET).
With ET, technology has leapt off the desktop and joined the real world. Users and inanimate objects (like cameras, signs, monitors and sensors) are now mobile-enabled and compute-powered.
That's paving the way for a host of new applications: Doctors and nurses can monitor patients remotely, detect and respond instantly to a crisis. Oil companies can deploy temperature sensors that provide real time information when drilling. And insurance agents can photograph damage, get authorisation in real time and pay out on the spot.
All these ET applications have two things in common: First, they focus on implementing technology for users, and in environments, where it hasn't gone previously. Yesterday's information technology (IT) really boiled down to empowering knowledge workers, specifically those accustomed to working behind a desk.
In contrast, ET is about empowering "deskless" workers, those who conduct the majority of their jobs away from a desk. This is a large group of folks, encompassing roughly 60% of all workers, according to labour statistics. And we aren't talking just field workers and repair technicians, this group includes teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers, salespeople, soldiers, EMTs and insurance agents, among many others.
ET is also about "instrumenting reality", gathering data and information from the real world (via sensor and monitor networks). And finally it's about controlling reality, through those same devices and networks.
The second thing these ET applications have in common? They consume bandwidth. Massive amounts of it.
Partly it's because of the sheer number of these devices: AT&T estimates that there will be roughly nine orders of magnitude more of these devices than there are of today's computing devices (including smartphones). As AT&T's CTO John Donovan says, "It took 100 years to achieve the billionth device on the network. It will take 10 years to achieve the next billion. And by the time I die, we'll be adding a billion devices a month."
These devices also consume an increasing amount of bandwidth per device. 4G technologies like LTE provide upwards of 70 Mbps, compared with 0.4 Mbps for 3G technologies (like UMTS and Edge). What's driving the bandwidth consumption? Applications like interactive video, of course. But enterprise IT professionals should also be thinking in terms of applications like desktop virtualisation (since the mobile device becomes, in essence, the desktop for deskless workers).
What are some steps IT can take to prepare for this onslaught?
First, begin tracking the growth of IP devices, particularly non-traditional types, like sensors and cameras. They're probably increasing faster than you think.
Second, have a network capacity plan and update it regularly. Here's a tutorial on how to craft one (note: registration is required). Anticipate bandwidth requirements, both for wireless and wireline devices, going up abruptly as ET applications emerge.
Third, build out an application delivery optimisation (ADO) framework. ADO is the discipline of matching infrastructure to application requirements. ADO solutions may cache, compress, accelerate, shape or condition network traffic, the province of the traditional WAN optimiser, or they may do server load balancing and offload, traditional application delivery controller functions.
The bottom line for enterprise IT? ET is here. Time to prepare for it.