The Interconnected Fabric: That Ingredient to Raise Your Digital Quotient
There are organizations that are quick to jump on the trend bandwagon and then there are those that adopt a wait-and-watch approach. With trends like interconnected enterprises, the modus operandi might lie somewhere between these two extremes, just like with the case of a beer manufacturer I recently met. In this rather insightful encounter, the manufacturer revealed his interest in augmented reality (AR) smartglasses (Hololens) to identify faulty, leaking valves in the facility. And things are moving fast. In fact, since I last met the great brewer, the industry mindset itself has shifted a little. From connected devices, leaders are now talking about connected enterprises with flipped architectures that are dynamic and integrated rather than siloed. These are firms with an interconnection-first strategy that allows them to connect their customers, partners and other key stakeholders to anything, anywhere, on any platform. In view of these manifold benefits, last year Equinix’s Jeremy Deutsch said that the number of interconnected enterprises would double from 38% to 84% by 2017. The prediction comes alongside the expectation of a booming digital universe, forecasted to reach 44 zettabytes by 2020. Who Said Automation Marks the Zenith of Productivity? The concept of connected enterprises questions the notion that organizational productivity peaks with automation. It offers new avenues to increase output, establish differentiation, and boost growth by releasing real-time information across departments. For instance, these enterprises can accelerate new product development, facilitate supply chain collaboration, streamline operations, and improve machine reliability, which currently averages a dismal 78.3%. While real-time data typically emanates from operational technologies (OT), transactional information on logistics, inventory, quality, and financial health, comes from information technologies (IT). In connected enterprises, IT and OT converge to form the basis of competitive advantage and productivity. It goes without saying then that digital infonomics is a crucial part of this process. Although the concept appeals to many enterprises, it has not yet been fully exploited due to the absence of a foolproof implementation plan. A plan of this nature and scale will involve adopting an enterprise-wide approach that rests on four operational pillars: platform, people, process and product.
Digingineering: Building Connected Enterprises
A good starting point for connected enterprise aspirants is to embrace digingineering or digital engineering. This involves the use of advanced technologies that collect real-time intelligence related to product variations, defects, and overall productivity. While it supports safe, compliant and dependable operations, digital engineering also introduces new connection points. As a result, risk exposure for the manufacturing environment increases, creating the need for secure networking infrastructure that leverages the Ethernet. With the average consolidated cost of a data breach as high as $4 million, security issues must be preempted and addressed upfront. Blockchain and security-as-a-service are some options to protect connected enterprises at the people, process, device, and data levels. In public Cloud environments, data security governance programs are another possibility, which approximately 20% of organizations are likely to resort to, in 2018. Eventually, implementing an interconnection oriented architecture (IOA) approach will become the preferred path to building connected enterprises. Not only does this ensure the secure interconnection of employees, partners, Clouds, locations and devices, but also it lays the groundwork for data exchange and digital commerce. To graduate to IOA, enterprises will have to create four layers – network, security, data and application. Once the topology of the network is streamlined, developing security guard rails and an appropriate data fabric follows. Finally, applications will need to be integrated through intersection points.
Operating at the Digital Edge
IOA is all about preparing IT for the digital edge, where the virtual and physical worlds converge. Moreover, it calls for the adoption of the edge model by migrating applications, data and data centers to the edge with the support of colocation centers. This model shortens the distance between enterprises, users and partners, creating a single marketplace. With such a clear roadmap in place, 76% of companies in Hong Kong are looking to pursue interconnection by 2017, while 84% will implement multi-Cloud interconnection over the next few years. In Singapore, 84% of organizations will embark on the interconnection journey in 2017, partly because the strategy has already yielded over $10 million in revenues and cost savings. But, nowhere has interconnection been better received than in the Americas. From less than 50% adoption in 2015, uptake in the US, Canada and Brazil is estimated to hit 92% this year. It is not all rosy and the concerns around ROI on interconnected ecosystems often crop up in technology summits and board meetings across the globe. What remains is a resonating hope that this wave of technology will take us a few steps ahead of where the last wave promised us.