Power Poised to Shift from Carriers to Enterprises

Flex-IT Networking is ushering in an age of carrier choices.

You heard it here first. Thanks to of a nascent phenomenon we call Flexible Information Technology Networking -- Flex-IT Networking for short -- the power balance is about to shift from network service providers to enterprises. Flex-IT networking enables enterprises to deliver IT services using a mosaic of network transport options. This is revolutionary because it enables you to use inexpensive Internet services to replace or complement MPLS, freeing you from the expense and hegemony of a single-carrier solution.

But before we dive into details of Flex-IT Networking, let's explain the larger concept of Flexible IT. We chose the word "flexible" because Flex-IT solutions provide choices in many dimensions. This freedom of choice empowers you to innovate and lower your costs because Flex-IT solutions build on components that are:

  • Standardized,
  • Available from multiple sources,
  • Subject to competition,
  • Ubiquitous, and
  • Scalable from very small to very large.

Although the term is new, Flex-IT solutions are not. For example, computing hardware became a Flex-IT solution when the PC became a standardized, competitive, ubiquitous platform usable for devices as small as laptops and as large as blade servers. Similarly, many software platforms are becoming Flex-IT solutions through the use of standardized open source. Flex-IT is most effective and fraught with potential when individual Flex-IT components are aggregated-such as when open source software runs on a PC.

What Is Flex-IT Networking? Flex-IT Networking allows the blending of shared and dedicated server, data center, and network resources in almost any combination to meet your needs. It is made possible by combining WAN optimization, server virtualization, and carrier-neutral colocation, with an emerging capability called integrated transport that uses public Internet connections to augment and/or replace dedicated private network connections. Integrated transport is the ability to flexibly connect geographically dispersed locations via a combination of private and virtual private network links as well as the public Internet.

Flex-IT Networking's WAN optimization, server virtualization, and carrier-neutral colocation components are well established. These widely-used standalone capabilities are important in their own right, but adding integrated transport to the mix provides the final ingredient needed to create Flex-IT Networking -- and makes the whole much more powerful than the sum of its constituent parts.

Integrated transport aggregates bandwidth from different network service providers into a single high-quality transport conduit. Underlying networking options can include MPLS, cable-based Internet access service, DSL-based Internet service, and Internet backbone service. In fact, any wide area IP service can qualify. Integrated transport nodes provide independent conduits between enterprise locations in a mesh configuration. Of course conduit quality of service must be high for integrated transport to support enterprise applications. Not only does integrated transport enable lower-cost, higher-availability bandwidth, it gives your enterprise new bargaining power to prevent network service providers from locking you into exclusive relationships.

We think this is a wonderful development for all concerned-even for carriers that had the upper hand for a long time. Competition and choice are healthy to keep markets vibrant and innovative. We just released a report on the emergence of Flex-IT Networking available here.

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