Paul Klinkby-Silver, regional director for the UK and South Africa at Olicom, discusses what managers want from their network suppliers.
The role of the corporate network is changing. An increasing number of organisations are using their networks to distribute applications that are critical to the effective functioning of the business. As a result, network managers are under pressure from the boardroom to meet ambitious service-level agreements and to guarantee against network downtime.
In important environments such as airlines, banks or retail organisations, a single minute of downtime can cost thousands, if not millions, of pounds.
Prolonged downtime can put a company out of business. Unsurprisingly, then, maintaining business continuity has become the primary focus for many network managers.
These managers are being driven to upgrade their existing networks to improve network availability or manageability and enable them to install yet more enterprise-wide business applications. But without strategic management, upgrades can pose a threat to the very business processes they are designed to protect.
A recent survey commissioned by Olicom showed that 96 per cent of network managers were concerned about the impact of upgrades on the continuity of their business applications. More than 40 per cent said that an understanding of network migration was the most important factor when selecting a network vendor. A further 28 per cent said that an understanding of their existing network was crucial.
For suppliers and dealers to effectively serve this market they need experience of both the existing network and the migration process. This has become more important to network managers than the size of the provider, or the cost or breadth of applications.
As network managers become increasingly involved in business processes, suppliers and dealers need to be able to respond to particular and distinctive business concerns. Traditionally, they either offer 'everything to everyone', or push one thing on everyone because of their own investment in a particular topology.
Yet as an IDC report illustrates, there is a huge breadth of migration systems available to organisations with existing Token-Ring networks.
The 'purist' wants to retain the predictability and reliability of the Token-Ring technology and is best served by a switching or high-speed Token-Ring system. The 'loyalist' wants a route to greater bandwidth and scalability, which can be facilitated by the addition of an ATM backbone.
The 'replacer' faces significant expansion to fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet. Suppliers and dealers that fail to tailor systems to customer needs will soon be left behind.
Millennium investments have left IT funds very depleted, so an upgrade needs to leverage existing network investment and ensure against the need for further up-grades. Network suppliers need to be able to give advice about the most appropriate points of investment and provide products that allow them to make a gradual migration. The days of the forklift upgrade are past.
Being the biggest no longer guarantees success in the networking market.
Supporting business continuity is central to today's organisations. Understanding and responding to that need must be the role of the successful network supplier and its dealers.
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