Enterprise Networking: Tomorrow's Challenges
Having seen the limitations faced by companies in the present environment, let us see some changing scenarios and challenges brought about by technological progress.
1. Need to Embrace Electronic Commerce
E-commerce has revolutionized the way businesses are conducted across the globe, and no successful enterprise can isolate itself from this major revolution.
Although the defeat of dot-coms has dampened the growth of e-commerce, the technology itself has not failed. It is instead a failure of weak business models, ambitious ROI, mismanagement, and poor IT strategy.
Setting aside the big hype in 2000, the fallout in 2001, and the expected resurgence in 2002, businesses are very slowly but surely embracing e-commerce. The long-term benefits of e-commerce such as the following have been recongnized by the enterprise community:
Reduced operational and maintenance overhead.
Easy supply chain management
Better coordination and control across different business groups
Capability to serve remote customersbreaking all geographical limitations
Currently, many companies are in the process of evolving their own e-commerce strategies that will best suit their organizational structure.
But the problem is that at one end, enterprises cannot disturb their day-to-day back office operations or the applications that drive them. And on the other end, e-commerce needs to be introduced into the core enterprise information system (with demanding features such as secure, real-time transactions and straight-through processing), supplemented by very high availability, scalability, load balancing, fault tolerance and interoperability.
2. Integrating and Distributing Systems and Resources
When a business cuts across country boundaries through expansion, acquisitions, and mergers, its IT infrastructure expands geographically. Interconnecting systems, resources, and applications among various business groups and partners become imperative as fallout of the enterprise's inability to maintain all its systems under one roof. Developmental efforts are also becoming increasingly scattered, in line with outsourcing and offshore development strategies.
All these integration issues can be effectively addressed only by means of distributing applications across the network, and probably across the globe, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2 Systems distributed across several networks and across the globe.
Distributed computing presents its own share of complexities. Integrating different sets of applications across various machines (even across different networks) without performance bottlenecks is not easy. Moreover, distributed applications mean distributed data, distributed business objects and directories, remote procedural calls, and increased network traffic.
Unless a rugged and feature-rich middleware architecture is in place, distributed computing is but a dream for the system managers.
3. Implications of Services-Oriented Architecture (SOA)
Services-oriented architecture and Web services-related technologies such as SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI are becoming increasingly popular in the international community, and the means of exploiting them are being debated seriously.
Web services introduce lots of flexibility and adaptability. Their strengths lie in exposing different disparate systems to each other by using common protocols, registries, and business interfaces to make collaborative computing a reality. SOA also enables a company to publish its core application features onto the World Wide Web for the discovery, integration, and use of other business vendors and consumers.
Adopting SOA includes the challenges of real-time electronic transactions (which we already discussed), plus an intelligent and collaborative environment that pervades various systems, applications, and resources.
4. Need to Adopt Common Standards and Strategies
To collaborate, collect, and unify development efforts, enterprises need to adopt certain common IT strategies and a standard environment for developing and deploying applications. These standards should be flexible enough to suit the existing environment, and at the same time provide room for future development and expansion.
These strategies should specifically cover the following:
Standard middleware architecture and technology that is most suitable for the existing organizational infrastructure
Standard application development environments (IDE) for developing and deploying various applications
Enterprise-wide data exchange models and data-warehouse standards
Integration methodologies and migration paths for existing back-office applications
Inter-organizational services and external services