Does your WAN benefit your business’ business?

* Takeaways from Avaya’s analyst conference

Every year, each of the major networking vendors hosts a conference and invites industry analysts to attend. During what is typically a two-day event, the vendor lays out its overall strategy and drills down into some of its objectives for the following year. In the last month, we’ve attended conferences organized by Avaya and Cisco. Today, we’ll discuss the Avaya meeting and next time, we’ll talk about the Cisco conference.

We’ve been attending Avaya’s analyst conferences since it was still part of Lucent. We can remember one of the conferences from the late 1990s in which the first speaker started his presentation with an extremely complex slide. He went on to basically say that each box on the slide represented a unique set of technologies and that he and his colleagues would spend the next two days detailing the intricacies of each of those technologies. Even though the vendor discussed each of these technologies in detail little was said about how they provided any business value.

It is important to put the content of that Avaya conference in context. In the late 1990s, most of the marketing material produced by all of the network equipment vendors focused on delivering messages such as “I have a higher port density than my competitors,” or “My router has a higher speed backplane or faster WAN interface than anybody else in the industry.” As simple as those messages were, they reflected what most IT organizations wanted to hear as they were busy building an end-to-end network using a set of emerging technologies.

Times have changed. The first speaker at the Avaya analyst conference last year was Lou D’Ambrosio, the vendor’s relatively new president and CEO. In his presentation he mentioned a few technologies but did not dwell on any of them. Instead he focused on topics such as how to use the various technologies to accomplish tasks such as reinventing customer service. The subsequent speakers at the conference reflected the theme that technology is only important if it allows you to achieve important business goals.

We believe that Avaya has it right. No company deploys a WAN for the fun of it. Companies deploy a WAN because it allows them to book sales orders, improve customer service, and streamline their business processes. The challenge that this presents to IT organizations is that we need to discuss technology in the context of how it impacts business. Unfortunately, that is a lot tougher than just measuring port density and backplane speed.


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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