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Are you wired for the unwired enterprise?

01 Nov 08

There’s been a lot of talk in the press about the coming ‘tidal wave’ of unified communications (UC) technologies and what this means to resellers. But UC is not an isolated technology, rather it is a smaller part of a much bigger picture – the unwired enterprise.

The unwired enterprise is defined by two so-called ‘techno-trends’ – hyperconnectivity and wireless communications. Hyperconnectivity is increasingly shaping today’s networking landscape, where any device that can benefit from a network connection will be connected. Hyperconnectivity is, in turn, radically transforming communications by eliminating the wired ties that bind productivity.

Think about this for a minute: we are quickly moving to the future of hyperconnected offices, hospitals, hotels and sporting facilities, which allow everyone and everything to be completely unwired and connected. Enterprises are embracing wireless, UC, security and other technologies to link the entire business to omnipresent network access that lets workers, guests, customers and others communicate and collaborate anywhere, anytime.

With this background, let’s take a look at a snapshot of what I consider to be the five essential technologies for the hyperconnected and unwired enterprise:

  1. 802.11n and 4G mobile broadband technologies (WiMAX and LTE) will give users faster mobile communications and allow more wireless-equipped devices to connect to the network seamlessly and securely.

  2. UC allows workers to easily access their personal and work-related files, address book, calendar and corporate data – securely and seamlessly, from one device.

  3. SOA (software oriented architecture) enables any application’s developer to take different building blocks of functions and put them together in various ways to build new, intelligent communications applications, services and business processes.

  4. Wireless mesh networks, sensor technologies, location-based services and RFID tags can be used to automatically heat or cool a room, to close an open window or to power down lights in an empty room, based on whether anyone is present or not. And, once workers enter the office, their device will instantly establish which colleagues are present, check their schedules against their priority team members/staff and organise the day’s activities, meetings and rooms accordingly.

  5. Fixed-Mobile Convergence technologies like IMS give users seamless, universal mobility in and out of the office.

If these technologies seem too far advanced in today’s market, just consider what’s coming down the line in the next few years.

The unwired enterprise of the future will see some changes in hardware equipment like the PBX, a ‘box’ that supports basic telecom applications and capabilities. The desk phone of the future will become an ‘intelligent hub’ which will automatically sense the user’s presence and coordinate among, and link to, the corporate network. All of the user’s personal devices will be connected, including laptops, wireless handsets, iPhones, and internet tablets, even though these devices all use different access technologies.

Finally, the intelligent hub will marry a rich set of short-range technologies (ultra wide band, sensors, RFID) with in-building longer-range WiFi-based technologies to automatically connect a worker’s personal devices with the office of the future.

But how does this affect you, the reseller?

For one thing, your circle of influence is about to become much larger than it was in the days of single-function wired networking equipment (data, voice, telephony, and so on). The proactive reseller will harness this influence by augmenting high-level strategic advisory services to his portfolio, thereby controlling a much larger slice of the customers’ budget when it comes to making IT purchasing decisions.

All of these opportunities will require groundwork to be done today that prepares your business for the change. The skills required to move from one-product to many-product consulting are in short supply, and the learning curve is steep.

My advice would be to look for vendors that not only specialise in all of these technologies, but also make it easier for you to do business with them. Becoming a trusted advisor to your customers won’t happen overnight, but with the right training, backing and services, reselling the unwired enterprise is well within your reach.