Networking is, and probably always will be, a focus of attention in the enterprise. Whether the goal is to build your own network or lease it from someone else, businesses of all types and sizes will continue to invest in ways that make networks better, faster and cheaper.
Still, the fact remains that poor connectivity is not always the result of narrow bandwidth or low throughput. Instead, much of it can be chalked up to the prevalence of disparate systems and poorly integrated resource sets that have evolved over time. Think of it in terms of transportation: a business could build the most advanced, private highway system between its headquarters and key regional sites, but if the workers at each location do not speak the same language, processes will suffer.
To improve data flow, then, the enterprise should dedicate itself to removing data silos once and for all. Of course, this is easier said than done, particularly at a time when both data loads and data infrastructure are expanding at a rapid clip. But recent advances in data-sharing among scientific institutions may offer some guidance for the enterprise.
According to Phys.org, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Energy Science Network (ESnet) have come up with a new data portal design that vastly improves the distribution of extremely large data sets, the kind usually involved in genomic sequencing, weather modeling and other research. Typical portals that connect databases to storage are often developed within their own silo-based software stacks, each of which must be managed independently. The new design features direct connection between servers and high-speed networks, coupled with outsourcing of tasks like authentication, authorization and data movement. In this way, the old single-server portal model is separated into multiple components to improve data exchange and foster greater commonality across distributed architectures.
Eliminating silos in the enterprise has also emerged as a key strategic initiative for Cisco. The company’s Adam Kalsey told Silicon Angle recently that even basic communications applications like email must be integrated into a cohesive environment if the enterprise expects to achieve the efficiency and flexibility that modern business processes require. To that end, Cisco has integrated the Spark messaging platform across its product portfolio, allowing customers to plug it in as needed to essentially hybridize existing communications infrastructure. At the same time, the company’s DevNet initiative aims to unify systems and resources under a developer-focused paradigm.
One of the best ways to eliminate silos, of course, is through abstraction. Park Place Technologies’ Paul Mercina noted recently that a software-defined data center (SDDC) offers the ability to pool resources across physical layer infrastructure, superseding the fixed relationships that exist between legacy systems. This allows the enterprise to pursue a more business-centric approach to technology and service development rather than one that is limited by the constraints of any one component.
All of this will be for naught, however, if the enterprise eliminates silos in the data center only to recreate them in the cloud. With the rise of multi-cloud architectures, says In The Black’s Glenn Rees, there is a very real possibility that individual business units will provision compute and storage infrastructure that lacks the ability to interact seamlessly and dynamically — two things the enterprise must have in order to compete in emerging service-driven markets. A recent report from Cloudify, in fact, estimates that two-thirds of enterprises suffer from “siloism” because they lack a unified cloud management platform to guide deployment and resource consumption.
Breaking down silos does require a significant investment in network infrastructure, but that is only part of the challenge. Federating data across a unified operating platform is equally important, as is overcoming the physical and logical limitations that inhibit data interactivity across multi-platform environments. Take away these impediments, and the investments made into advanced networking will be enhanced by multiple orders of magnitude.
Arthur Cole is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years’ experience covering enterprise IT, telecommunications and other high-tech industries.