Mobility is Everything

No longer a mere component of enterprise IT strategy, mobile has become the primary driver of every IT decision made today. An increasingly un-tethered population of employees, partners and customers is necessitating that organizations make themselves more elastic than they've ever been.

With desktop phones and PCs being jettisoned in favor of mobile devices, employees are demanding that their newfound flexibility and agility be supported by technology that can meet every resulting work need the instant it surfaces. Whether that means having the ability to update a customer record, approve a purchase order, or take care of a project-related task, the implications for the underlying infrastructure are significant.

The same is true on the external front, where customers are armed with equal mobility and want to know that they can place an order, check the status of that order, or get support at any given moment.

The network as Genie

The mandate for the modern IT infrastructure is to satisfy the whims of an instant gratification culture that's been borne of technological innovation. Whims to access critical business information. Whims to trigger time-sensitive business processes. Whims to make spontaneous purchases. All from the palm of our hands. It's as if we're asking the network to play the role of the famed Genie of the Lamp, except with one serious caveat: We want unlimited wishes.

Unfortunately, rubbing a lamp is not going to make this happen.

For instance, complex real-time business processes occurring in separate systems must be connected seamlessly. These processes may be unfolding in a variety of settings, from on-premise systems to hosted data centers to cloud-based SaaS applications. Orchestrating and integrating so many pieces at high velocity requires an agile, flexible and intelligent network.

Secure and proactive

Then there are the dizzying security and vulnerability considerations of delivering either enterprise or personal data to mobile devices. This data may move through numerous systems and applications en route, and in each location may be combined with other data, raising the security stakes even further. The network must have automated intelligence built into it if it's going to analyze potential risks and effectively govern everything that's delivered to or coming from a mobile device, applying security protocols and compliance requirements along the way.

And all of that agility, intelligence and automation cries out for predictive capabilities that make it possible for enterprises to make better — and timelier — business decisions. Innovation on the infrastructure front has brought such capabilities into the network, which can now play an active role in determining when to optimize a process, respond to a threat, or proactively manage network capacity.

Gartner spotted this trend four years ago, using its annual Catalyst Conference to declare that mobility was more about the architecture than the device. In August, Gartner convened the 2016 edition with the theme, "architecting the on-demand digital business." The more things change, the more they stay the same.

From plumbing to top billing

The idea that the IT infrastructure has evolved from plumbing to a vibrant part of the business is a thread that that echoes across several recent ALE blogs. We've examined the fast-evolving business models taking over IT, with pay-as-you, on-demand pricing of everything from applications to network capacity a clear indication of the need for instant gratification. We've commiserated about the frustrations of legacy infrastructures, and how woefully ill-equipped they are to respond fast enough to keep pace with business today. We've advocated for getting infrastructure teams involved in IT decision-making, recognition of the dynamic role they play. And we've charted the rise of hybrid IT as the past meets the present and enterprises maneuver to greet the future.

In each of these cases, mobility is a prominent thread, informing just about every decision and representing the future of business. And now mobility is quickly branching into a new area that introduces all sorts of new complexities: The Internet of Things.

But Wait, There's More: The Internet of Things

IT infrastructures are already stretched to their limits. The infrastructure will be hard-pressed to meet the probably underestimated demands of the IoT. Adding the constant data flow generated by every connected device — from smart phones and tablets to airplane engines and HVAC systems to hearing aids and toothbrushes — introduces a whole new layer of challenges enterprises will have to meet if they're to survive and thrive.

The good news is that early adopters are already meeting those challenges. A recent Vodafone survey found that 86 percent of respondents in the Americas have increased their IoT spending over the last year. Hopefully that increase in spending has included infrastructure investments to handle the increased data flow.

It's impossible to overestimate the critical challenges mobility introduces into the IT infrastructure equation. The days of simply adding a wireless network so people could connect their phones to the Internet now seems quaint by comparison.

The infrastructures of tomorrow will have to be designed with mobility at the core. Capabilities will range from data integration to security to embedded predictive analytics.  

Scratch that: Those are requirements of the infrastructures of today.  The pace of change is staggering    

It's all quite ironic. For many years, we all thought the network was dumb, and the computer was where all the magic happened. As it turns out, it looks like it's the other way around. Somewhere, John Gage, the Sun Microsystems co-founder who coined the phrase "the network is the computer," is smiling.

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