The WAN and the wiki generation, Part 3

* Wiki and other collaboration apps likely to stress the WAN

This is the third and last newsletter, at least for now, that we will use to discuss wikis. One of the points that we want to make is that the use of wikis inside the enterprise is not something that might take hold sometime in the distant future. To the contrary, wikis are currently used by a number of enterprises.

Motorola is a good example of a company that uses wikis as part of its collaboration strategy, along with blogs and other related functionality. The adoption of wikis within Motorola was not planned by the central IT organization rather it grew organically by word of mouth.

Peter Thoeny of StructuredWikis has an interesting definition of a structured wiki. In particular, Peter describes a wiki as being able to support organic content, having hyperlinks, and being based on trust. He contrasts that to a database system, which contains highly structured data and is built on access control. Peter defines a structured wiki as combining aspects of a wiki and a database. To Peter, a structured wiki is a collaborative database environment where knowledge can be shared freely, and where structure can be added as needed.

So will this shape up to be a battle of collaboration tools? Structured wikis vs. Microsoft SharePoint? We doubt it. In particular, at the end of 2006 Google bought the wiki software maker JotSpot. Microsoft has announced its intention to include a wiki feature in SharePoint 2007 and IBM is likely to include wiki functionality in a product, code-named Ventura, that will ship this year. As such, we believe that wikis will exist along with various other collaboration tools.

However, referring back to the first of these three newsletters, the use of wikis may well end up to be age related. As is well known, members of generation X create ad hoc communities based on text messaging and frequent Web sites such as MySpace and YouTube. These peoples will form the wiki generation – that being a generation of employees who expect to communicate within the work environment using the same types of tools that they use outside of the work environment. Wiki is a natural tool for these people, in part because they do not have to get the permission of a centralized IT group to use the technology.

So what does all of this have to do with the enterprise WAN? The simple answer is video. As part of wiki-based collaboration, the wiki generation is highly likely to use video and other forms of communications that stress the WAN. Unlike a lot of today’s structured, and hence predictable, use of video to support scheduled meetings, the wiki generation will use video in a highly ad hoc manner. The impact on the enterprise WAN will be to both drive the need for more bandwidth as well as the need for more sophisticated tools to better manage application delivery.

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