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Networks of every flavour

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In the early days of Cloud Computing and managed services, you couldn’t go too far before coming across explanations that would default to the utility analogy. You know the one, where computing resource becomes like electricity, an on-demand service to be switched on and off and paid for on a ‘per use’ basis.

The problem with this is that it inadvertently commoditised the resource, and when things are commoditised, there is an almost automatic lowering of its perceived value. We don’t think about the electricity we get, we don’t really care about the suppliers, (apart from when they hike their bills), as long as the lights come on when we flick the switch, that’ll do us.

My concern is that if you adopt such a disinterested attitude in IT ‘commodities’ you’d soon come unstuck. Let’s take managed networks as an example. Think ‘commodity’ and the risk is that you will see both network provider and the managed service in ‘vanilla’ terms ie nothing to choose between them. Electricity is electricity, a network is a network, right? And being a commodity, the primary purchasing driver invariably comes down to cost, which devalues the proposition still further.

It is an easy trap to fall into and one that we help organisations avoid by encouraging them to be more diligent in their supplier search, to disregard the original commodity notion and think more in terms of the end-to-end service, which includes both technical offerings and service delivery. Our white paper ‘Next generation networks: 10 key questions to ask your managed network provider’ was written to counteract what we saw as a lack of rigour in the selection process, aiding prospects to get a much more detailed fix on the calibre, capacity and capability of their potential managed IT partner.

Of course, a managed network could still be legitimately described as commoditised just on the basis that it is priced up on a pay as you use basis, that costs are essentially fixed and known. But it mustn’t undermine the value of the service provided or encourage this ‘vanilla’ thinking.

The last three network specifications I prepared couldn’t have been more contrasting. There was one for a finance institution where latency of connection were paramount; there was another for a health sector organisation where N3 connectivity and security were the success criteria; and a third for a nationwide retailer where resilience and availability called for a real belt and braces approach. All needed a precise understanding of client requirements; an accurate scoping to meet those requirements; and the ability, from a technical, projects and service perspective, to deliver and support three very bespoke engineered networks. None of these were remotely ‘vanilla’…more like variations on Neapolitan! And the value of a network provider like Redcentric is that we know the difference – and can deliver the same high standard of connectivity regardless.

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