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N+I panel attendees raise questions

May 19, 20034 mins
Data Center

* Attendees ask questions at N+I management panels

We’ve been discussing two panels at NetWorld+Interop 2003 – one on Self-Healing Networks and the other on Predictive Technologies. Today’s column will focus on audience feedback and wrap up with a “visionary” question.

Somewhat surprisingly, about a third of our audience in Self-Healing Networks (an audience of well over a hundred) felt they were using some capabilities reflecting self-healing networks, while none of our audience in Predictive Technologies believed they were deploying real predictive capabilities.

The Self-Healing audience was asked, “Would you trust a solution to monitor and proactively activate changes in your network so that you could, say, go off and enjoy lunch without worrying – even if the vendor made claims to support such capabilities?” Not surprisingly, no one raised their hands. The lesson there is, of course, that this functionality is not yet available – and that even if it were, it would at best take a long “get-acquainted” time before buyers would leverage it in full.

Both audiences raised realistic purchasing concerns. In Self-Healing, there was a very pragmatic question about vendor longevity. Clearly, investments in core analytic capabilities designed to monitor and control networked infrastructure require not only sound technology and good usability, but also the faith and confidence that the selected vendor will endure and evolve as a business partner.

In Predictive Technologies, another very pragmatic question addressed deployment time. No one is really interested in investing in “the best of all worlds” in predictive control if the ramp-up time is so long and arduous that the promised “world” never comes, but the operational and capital expense costs mount up like a lottery jackpot. The panel was sensitive to this issue, noting that deployment issues generally are far from fully resolved, but have nevertheless noticeably improved.

Who will profit from self-healing networks and predictive technologies? Who are the users? The buyers? The types of companies? Well, this subject could be a column in itself – but suffice it to say that the users will be manifold, including administrators for networks, systems and applications; planners; engineers; help desk professionals; and IT executives focused on everything from purchasing to service planning and service commitments.

In other words, if these capabilities are to become real and meaningful, they will be instrumental in building bridges of cooperation across IT in solving and addressing common infrastructurewide issues. And as they evolve, they will need to do this with increasing business relevance.

In neither panel did we have time to address the future. Since no one really knows the future (not even analysts), I thought I’d describe what I’d like to see. I’d like to see a migration away from technology for technology’s sake, to an industry focused on extending human potential through high tech, whether in business, or in education, or in other individualized pursuits.

This vision would be enabled in part through self-healing infrastructure with strong predictive capabilities. New capabilities in self-healing infrastructure and predictive technologies would support a new wave of contextually oriented applications that will be able to adapt to human preferences in a way that’s still unimaginable today – and through that interaction, once again, create a revolution in high tech.

These applications will demand high levels of bandwidth and be driven by intelligent agent “knowledge gatherers” designed to fit contextually sensitive tasks. Just for starters, imagine the (dreaded) Microsoft Office paperclip behaving in a manner that actually could respond to your questions and adapt to your levels and abilities to instruct you in new software with the same facility as a gifted, physically present instructor looking over your shoulder. My personal belief is also that to get there, next-generation applications may be developed first by anthropologists, sociologies, psychologists and knowledge experts, and then, after a functional design has been achieve, turned over to software engineers.

As always, I welcome your feedback and thoughts on these and other issues. Just send them to me at