Morphing tactical solutions to becoming strategic ones

* Knowing where you are going will help you know how to get there

In the last newsletter, we discussed the recent Network World IT Roadmap seminar in San Francisco, where Jim moderated a track devoted to network and application optimization. During the session several vendors encouraged IT organizations to move away from deploying tactical solutions and to accelerate their deployment of strategic solutions.

When discussing solutions that can help with application delivery it is important to realize that there is no product or service in the market that provides a best in class solution for each component of application delivery. For example, solutions that do a good job of compression might not do as good of a job at protocol (i.e., TCP, HTTP) acceleration or traffic management. Analogously, solutions that do a great job of caching may not do a good job of reporting on key network parameters or accelerating a particular application such as Microsoft’s SharePoint.

So the moral from Alice in Wonderland that we referenced in a recent newsletter also applies here. That moral being that before you can decide which way to turn, you have to know where you want to go. Given that sage advice, it follows that in order to choose the best strategic solution to enhancing application delivery, network organizations need a good understanding of where their company is heading relative to the development and deployment of applications.

For example, is the IT organization going to continue to deploy n-tier applications or will it migrate to a service-oriented architecture (SOA) based on Web services? Is the IT organization going to continue to deploy key applications in multiple data centers or are it going to host a given application in a single data center?

When Jim asked the seminar attendees how many of then had a pretty good handle on where there company was going relative to the deployment of applications, he got the answer that he expected. Relatively few of the attendees indicated that they had a good understanding of their company’s application strategy and direction. As Alice in Wonderland explained, that lack of understanding of where you want to go makes it difficult to choose the right path to get there.

So what does that mean? Does it mean that IT organizations should continue to deploy just tactical solutions and not think strategically? We don’t think so. We basically agree with the vendors who suggested that IT organizations should deploy a tactical solution that can morph over time to be a more strategic one. However, it leaves open major issues such as how do you know that the tactical solution that you buy today can indeed morph into a more strategic solution tomorrow? Part of the answer to that question is that you need to have a deep understanding of the architecture of any solution that you are evaluating. In future newsletters we will discuss the architecture of these solutions in more detail.

But there is also a financial issue here. For the sake of example, assume that you are purchasing a network and application optimization solution to solve a very limited problem, such as compressing file transfers. While you may at some time in the future want to turn on additional functionality (i.e., caching, protocol acceleration, traffic management) you don’t want to pay for that functionality until you actually use it.

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