Here in the trade press, it can be all too easy to get swept up in hype cycles. Vendors and industry groups invest millions to develop new technologies and send out their most charismatic evangelists to talk up what they've got. It's exciting stuff. But in the real world, "exciting" doesn't always translate to "necessary," or even "useful." When it comes to trends like BYOD and Big Data, what do you need to know to help your company make the best buying decisions?
BYOD: The pros and cons
Of all the trends in our list, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is arguably the most commonplace and the most inevitable. It's certainly the most attractive to end users and also offers benefits to organizations, creating a global BYOD market that Grand View Research pegged at $64.95B all the way back in 2012 and predicts to reach $238.39B by 2020.
Pros: Let's face it, hardly anyone enjoys juggling separate work and personal phones, and the upgrade cycle for personal electronics often beats the upgrade cycle for corporate-issued devices. Today, personally owned smartphones and tablets are typically newer, faster, and able to do more stuff in cooler ways than any stodgy corporate Blackberry from 2007 ever could. BYOD is said to improve worker satisfaction, engagement, and productivity—it's widely considered a perk. And many organizations appreciate the immediate cost savings that come from not having to procure and support those corporate Blackberries.
Cons: A secure and effective BYOD rollout isn't as simple as letting employees know they can use their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops for business purposes. BYOD means that workers will be able to access and most likely store corporate data on personal devices. Nearly every business, no matter how large or small, has at least some sensitive information that can't be leaked, whether for regulatory compliance or intellectual property reasons. BYOD increases the risks of data breaches and data leaks.
BYOD can also invite viruses and malware onto corporate systems thanks to the ease with which many mobile devices can be infected and the ease with which malicious software can be spread. Finally, allowing employees to bring personally owned devices to the office can dramatically increase the pressure on corporate Wi-Fi networks. Just picture workers live-streaming the big game on a tablet while working on a presentation on a laptop and participating in a VoIP call on a smartphone (on Wi-Fi, naturally, to save on their data use)—you get the idea.
What you need for BYOD to succeed
When it comes to BYOD, data security and regulatory compliance requirements will demand strong governance. That means working with whatever legal and compliance resources you have to hammer out a policy that protects sensitive data from unauthorized access and exposure, then communicating that policy to all employees in the BYOD program. You'll need to make sure your wireless network is capable of handling the increased traffic, perhaps by looking into how 802.11ac Wi-Fi can support BYOD. And you'll need to make sure your security is up to scratch. BYOD has help drive a resurgence in the Network Access Control (NAC) market thanks to the need to protect networks from rogue and unauthorized devices. Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions can also help by ensuring that device configurations and security postures are in line with corporate policy.
Big Data: The pros and cons
Not every trend can provide clear business value. Big Data can. Through the collection and analysis of massive volumes of data, businesses can gain valuable, actionable insights into everything from customer buying patterns to manufacturing floor inefficiencies. That has made Big Data a priority at a majority of companies of all sizes, according to a recent survey of 540 enterprise IT decision-makers conducted by Enterprise Networking Planet parent company QuinStreet.
Pros: The pros of an effective Big Data implementation are significant. No matter what an enterprise hopes to find out, business analytics can probably provide the answer. What's a target market's response to a particular ad campaign? What are people saying about the company on social media? What are people buying in-store, and what do those purchasing decisions mean? Internally, too, Big Data can help identify operational sore points in IT, warehouses, and factories. More data means more knowledge, and more knowledge means better decisions. Faster decisions, too, considering the real-time results some Big Data analytics applications can provide.
Cons: The thing about Big Data is that it's big. Information overload is a real possibility. On an individual level, having too much information or being presented with too many options can be crippling. The same holds true on an organizational level, where it can be all too easy to get lost in a sea of data and never actually get anywhere meaningful.
On top of that, Big Data can demand big changes in the data center. It touches compute and storage, of course, but what few have discussed so far is the impact Big Data can have on the network and how networking teams should address that.
What you need for Big Data to succeed
The Big Data challenge demands focus and a clear strategy. It isn't enough to declare that your organization wants to adopt Big Data. You need to articulate exactly what kinds of data you want to analyze and what kinds of insights you want to gain from it so that you can choose the most appropriate platforms and applications and most effectively train or hire staff to use them. And once you have that figured out, you need to consider whether your current networking infrastructure can support your plans.
The distributed nature of the big data loads inherent to Big Data will demand a lot from an enterprise network. Bandwidth and latency are major concerns, and experts like Juniper's Calvin Chai insist that upgrading to 10GbE is a must. Other experts push the flexibility and scalability of fabric architectures as beneficial to Big Data initiatives.
Changes don't have to come all at once. Starting small is often the best way to gauge whether a particular implementation is producing the results your organization wants. Keep your expectations reasonable and build on small successes to develop a scalable, flexible Big Data implementation that will work for your organization not just now, but for years to come.
BYOD and Big Data are just two of the trends enterprise IT departments must grapple with today. Check out Part 2, in which we discuss cloud computing and cloud security, and stay tuned for future rundowns on the Internet of Things and the king of all confusing enterprise IT trends: SDN.
Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Jude Chao is managing editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Follow her on Twitter @judechao.