Making the Distributed Enterprise Run

One of the cool parts as an industry analyst is gaining insight into technology trends often times before they go mainstream. Over the past couple of years, I've been studying a trend that analysts describe as “virtualization” and the effect it’s had on an enterprise’s ability to expand nationwide. I've picked the brains of top analysts to gain an understanding of how communications service providers like Windstream can help CIOs accomplish virtualization. I found that while managing company information flow is significantly more complex for organizations that are distributed geographically, a communications service provider can help IT departments understand the trends listed below, and deliver a cohesive experience for their employees and customers.

Virtual Office - Organizations are no longer defined by office boundaries or work hours. Technology enables employees to be as productive out of the office as sitting at the desk. Employees rely on collaboration tools such as e-mail, instant messaging, unified communications and web/video conferencing to conduct daily business from any location. Applications that focus on enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and supply chain management (SCM) are critical to most large businesses, and must be accessible and perform equally well from all locations.

Shared Applications - The lines between employees, customers, suppliers and trusted partners have blurred. CIOs have to be nimble allowing key applications to straddle the line between public and private domains, putting extra pressure on security features. Enterprises are shifting many of their shared applications to the network core, colocating servers in the carrier data center. This gives the customer the space they need, unlimited bandwidth, and the best possible performance. The built-in security of MPLS allows network administrators to focus on perimeter and application security.
In parallel, telecommunications costs (services and equipment) have dropped to the point where complex network designs with layered redundancy often fit into tight operating budgets. Cost reductions can often be achieved at the same time that greater demands are being placed on networking resources.

Compliance- External sources, such as government regulations, have also increased demands on networking resources. Some regulatory compliance requirements, such as HIPAA (healthcare) and GLBA (finance) are industry specific, while others are more universal, affecting all large enterprises (SOX, SAS 70 type II). For example, new HIPAA rules recently went into that require healthcare organizations and business associates to be more vigilant about data security, especially for data transmitted between sites or accessed remotely, which some experts say, is the biggest vulnerability for a breach.

Convergence-Applications are converging on the corporate network using Internet Protocol (IP). IT executives are more comfortable layering additional services onto networks that previously were dedicated for internal data applications only. Voice, data and other applications are converging onto one network. Carriers are responding by delivering greater capacity, redundant network designs, and providing advanced platforms for applications such as VoIP, MPLS and SIP Trunking.