In our modern world, \u201cmetaverse\u201d is the term applied to an artificial reality, a virtual world inhabited by avatars that represent real people and perhaps other AI virtual beings, too.\nWhat makes the concept relevant to enterprises are the Facebook decision to embrace metaverse as the future, the fact that others like Microsoft are following along, and the promise that it could redefine meetings, sales calls, support, and even work overall. Network planners would then have to consider its impact on traffic and connectivity.\n\nOne big get-it-approved problem with the metaverse for enterprise is likely to be security. Facebook has had a lot of recent bad press for favoring profit over the welfare of its users, and that sort of thing sets compliance officers a-tingle, so self-hosting might be a solution. Executing that is partly a software issue and partly a network issue.The former, we can assume, would be handled by open-source development arising out of the interest Facebook has created. The latter isn\u2019t as easy to dismiss.\nIn his keynote at Connect, CEO Mark Zuckerberg indicated that he wanted the metaverse to be an immersive experience, which means that it can\u2019t be based on awkward, artificial behaviors. Suppose you, as a metaverse-sales-type, wanted to shake (virtual) hands with a (virtual avatar) prospect. Add in a nice dose of latency and you either end up playing patty-cake or boxing. You could rightfully argue that latency is the death of a realistic interaction in the metaverse, and latency is largely determined by the way the metaverse is connected\u2014the network.\nEdge networking falls short\nThe big problem for a metaverse is network QoS, and latency in particular. There will have to be a server that keeps track of who\u2019s in it, what they\u2019re doing, and so forth. Every inhabitant will then have to connect to that server, and those connections could be subject to latency levels as small as a worker next to the server would generate and as large as one half-way around the world. How does the network accommodate that to produce Facebook\u2019s immersive experience?\nEdge computing would solve it, so many say, but that\u2019s too pat an answer. Going back to our workers next to the server and on the other side of the world, where exactly is their edge? Distributed metaverses would require that there be distributed edges, each mesh-connected with all the others. You can look up the formulas yourself, but trust me when I say that the number of direct mesh connections rise exponentially with the number of edge locations.\u00a0 How many \u201cedges\u201d are there globally? Thousands and thousands, even if we were to confine ourselves to major metro areas. That\u2019s millions of direct, low-latency, connections in the mesh.\nThe truth is that enterprises can\u2019t expect the metaverse to deliver a true representation of an in-person experience across global distances, because you just can\u2019t push synchronization faster than the speed of light. That means that an enterprise metaverse will have to make some compromises with regard to creating a realistic virtual reality. Forget about shaking hands or doing anything else that requires a high degree of correlation of action between distant parties.\nScale back the metaverse for business\nOne possible way of getting around global latency issues is to forget global-scale metaverses. Most organizations with a global presence already know that once you have to cross five or more time zones, it\u2019s difficult to get any sort of real-time collaboration going.\u00a0 If we envisioned \u201clocal metaverses\u201d limited to perhaps three or four time zones, we could probably expect to control latency enough to create a credible virtual interaction among a group of virtual workers, customers, and partners. If we had such a group, and we needed to \u201cmetaverse-in\u201d a remote participant, they could be admitted with the understanding that they couldn\u2019t interact as richly as the locals could. Think \u201cdial into a zoom call\u201d.\nAnother possible strategy is to dumb down the metaverse interactions. If you can\u2019t shake hands without punching out your contact, then don\u2019t allow or encourage it.\u00a0 The problem with this is that it limits the immersive potential of the metaverse, and nobody really knows how effective the metaverse would be absent that critical feature. If your alternate reality isn\u2019t believable, it\u2019s not a reality at all\nHosted metaverse? Nope.\nIf all of this makes enterprises wonder whether having someone host their metaverse rather than building it themselves would solve these problems, you can forget that, too. Nobody pushes photons or electrons any faster than you can. The problems I\u2019ve cited here would hit Facebook and others just as hard. This, in part, is why there\u2019s a lot of skepticism about Facebook\u2019s plans.\nBefore you turn your enterprise back on metaverse, though, consider that social media got just as negative a reception from enterprises when it emerged. Looking back at my surveys of the time, only about 5% of enterprises thought it would impact them. Today, 100% say social media has a \u201csignificant\u201d impact on the way they do business.\nA metaverse may not be the thing that comes to mind for corporate communications, but as it\u2019s socialized among workers, it sets expectations just as social media has. Study after study showed that there was no value to video in coordinating pairwise interactions, yet people became accustomed to two-party video in casual interactions, and today three out of four workers under 40 say they want video rather than voice for two-party communications. How long will it take before your own workers expect to interact in a metaverse?\nBut it\u2019s customer expectations that may decide the metaverse issue. If your sales and support interactions are with inhabitants of Facebook\u2019s metaverse, or those of competitors, how long will it take before one of your competitors decides to sell and support in a metaverse? You don\u2019t really have to shake hands or play soccer in customer interactions, either, so strict latency control isn\u2019t as critical. In short, people will learn to play by metaverse rules, including your own people.\nWhat should network planners do, then? The answer is to pay a lot more attention to latency.\u00a0 You\u2019ll want to limit latency in all your network connections, which starts by knowing what latency you\u2019re experiencing. You will need to decide where to host a sales\/support metaverse to minimize latency; headquarters, regional office, or metro, so you\u2019ll have to check internet latency to each of those points, and explore when to hop on the company VPN versus connect directly. You\u2019ll want to know what ISP and private VPN combination gets everyone into the metaverse with minimal latency. Finally you\u2019ll want to know how to minimize latency in traffic handling at any intermediate points.\u00a0 Don\u2019t think this is all a bet on a future metaverse, either; IoT will require the same low-latency handling.\nThis whole metaverse thing sounds silly to many, but there\u2019s a good chance that it will end up being a requirement, in some form, within five years. Plan for it now and your team won\u2019t be virtually boxing with customers, partners, and each other. And you won\u2019t be boxing for real with your executives for blowing it.