Choose carefully if you want a network that truly delivers value for your customer, says Marcus Hill
Historically, the networking part of your contract as a service provider has been of relatively low importance, not really connected with unlocking value for customers. It’s not been something that impacts hugely on the overall customer experience. As recently as two years ago, a network was just there to link two or more sites – useful but not a matter of life and death.
Now that’s changing, along with the cost of delivering centralised applications over a wide area, such as cloud and shared services. More and more, applications are now sourced over a wide area network and less so on a local area basis. The quality and performance of the network is now critical, even if customer spend on it is not up by all that much.
Getting in on the ground floor
A network is also about giving better access to legacy applications, which generally don’t cope well with high network latency. The credit crunch has slowed migration away from legacy applications, so it’s an area that networks will need to cope with for a little while yet.
You need a network that has strong application delivery capabilities, low latency, low jitter and high quality of service. You also need the ability to measure application performance as well as the performance of the network itself.
Systems integrators have had problems with the network – for example with the delivery of IP telephony and with considering the finer points of application performance management at the time of procuring the network.
A more consultative approach is now needed at the network design stage, an approach that doesn’t just look at how to connect two points. You need a provider who can carry out an aggressive latency calculation on their network. They need to be involved in the network design cycle early on so the customer can benefit from the latter stages of network delivery. You need a provider to move your customer onto IP VPN-type services, to let you map the performance of services between the LAN and the WAN.
Consider the details
Providers of business services aren’t generally in a position to do all this for themselves. And why should they be? It’s not their core business. They need to identify a partner to do it for them – ideally one with whom they don’t compete. At Virgin Media Business we don’t pretend to be a provider of integration services, unlike some of our competition.
Remember that a pound saved on a network can be 10 pounds spent on fixing network management issues down the line. Consideration of the right level of detail upfront is money saved. So get it right first time.