The Network Is Everything

As we now know, when John Gage, the long-time chief researcher at the former Sun Microsystems, coined the phrase, "the network is the computer," he wasn't shooting high enough. The way Laurent Bouchoucha, ALE's global strategic sales director, sees it, the network has become much, much bigger than the computer. It's evolved into the very heartbeat of business. "It's the network that is driving everything," Bouchoucha told hundreds of business partners and analysts during a round-table discussion at the annual ALE Global Business Partner event in Paris last March.


Support for a bold statement

What I found to be interesting is that he had market research to back up that assertion, including projections for 2015 of 18 percent sales growth in wireless LAN access points, 60 percent sales growth in 10Gig ports for core networks, and 115 percent growth in sales of equipment that supports the next generation 802.11AC wireless standard.


Numbers are only part of the story

Of course, you need more than numbers to convince me that people are comfortable with the network being the heart of everything. Bouchoucha also provided an example about a hospital that's actually encouraging patients to use Apple's Facetime video communication application, a sign of strong faith in the hospital's network. He also told of growing adoption of the latest network technologies by local governments looking to provide services to the public more effectively, and how doing so can improve elected officials' odds of getting re-elected.


Wireless and big data

What I found fascinating is rate at which the world of physics research is pushing the capabilities of wireless networks to support big data analysis. This would have been something totally crazy to think about only a couple of years ago. 

It's also something that has to happen if businesses are to keep up with the exponential growth of data. Along those lines, IDC predicts that by 2020, the universe of data will reach 44 zettabytes, or 10 times what it was in 2013. And businesses won't just need analytics software and research scientists to dissect and extract value from it; they'll also need a robust network that lets them do that in real-time, and without interruption.



Consumerization of IT is spurring growth

Another round-table panelist, Dinesh Ramankutty, general manager of Bahrainian conglomerate Intercol, said that, as in the West, much of the need for beefed up network capabilities in the Middle East is being spurred by the consumerization of IT. User expectations have been transformed by the proliferation of devices, the ubiquity of mobile applications and appetite for high-speed data, forcing IT decision makers to support things they would have scoffed at a few short years ago. "These are the changes that are driving the connected experience," said Ramankutty.


Users want anywhere access on all devices

Another panelist and ALE partner reported that users in Southeast Asia have developed similar expectations of a quality experience whether they're using their devices at work or at leisure. "They want ease of use and connectivity for a wide variety of smart devices running on any network," said Albert Png, a VP at Nera Communications in Singapore.

Based on a recent Current Analysis assessment, ALE customers have a strong option to meet the demand for consumer-type services in the company's application fluent mesh-and-pod networking architecture, which is designed to meet the varied demands of multi-media applications in today's virtualized enterprises. "Recent announcements from many vendors reinforce the increasing awareness that the market is heading towards an application-aware environment, and here, ALE has a head start," writes Mike Fratto, principal analyst and author of the assessment.


Application performance and digital experience is only as good as the network

Based on the comments from Mr. Fratto, ALE has been ahead of the curve in understanding that a company's use of digital information, given the myriad ways that information is accessed and analyzed, is only as good as its network.

Clearly, companies that pair Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Application Fluent Network architecture with its new Intelligent Fabric technology can achieve even more flexibility and agility.

I think Current Analysis is onto something with their assessment of the Intelligent Fabric technology that ALE has produced. It has even been recognized by the huge Interop conference coming up at the end of April in Las Vegas as a best-in-show finalist in the network category. Intelligent Fabric is built to enable services in minutes and offers some self-healing capabilities to reduce IT overhead.


Healthcare is pushing digital boundaries

Guy Jermany, director of information technology and services (LINKEDIN) for the U.K.'s Khipu Networks, one of ALE's key partners, says ALE's diverse networking capabilities will help Khipu's healthcare customers tackle the industry's growing opportunity on the mobile front. Specifically, Jermany says that doctors today tend to roam between multiple hospitals, their offices, and even the homes of their patients, and thus the ability to do remote diagnosis is key. If doctors can easily access x-rays, CT scans and other medical images over mobile networks, they'll be able to diagnose patients faster and bring down their own costs.

The healthcare arena also provides a perfect blueprint for the diverse requirements of modern networks. For instance, Jermany said that while the technical folks who have traditionally bought hospital technology are most concerned with preventing network failures, doctors and other providers are all about the availability and security of applications.


End-user experience matters

CEOs and administrators, meanwhile, are most focused on the patient experience and the return on investment, and patients simply want their devices to work like they do at home.

It's an environment that perfectly illustrates the power and diversity needed from today's networks, but it's certainly not the only one. From hotels and airlines to retailers and manufacturers, every industry is discovering that the wider assortment of requirements a network can meet, the more likely they are to thrive.

So when Bouchoucha says "the network is driving everything," he's not kidding.

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