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On The Edge: Think Different About I.T. for Remote Sites

October 7, 2011 - 2 Comments

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Like so many millions of people around the world this week, the passing of Steve Jobs and Apple’s call to “Think Different” has us doing exactly that. His ideas improved the world in innumerable ways, and the best way we can honor his brilliance is to build on it in ways that even Steve might not have imagined.

Each of us in the I.T. world has huge potential to improve the day-to-day existence of our co-workers, partners, and customers, if we just take a few minutes to think differently and approach our traditional challenges with a new mind set. Here are just a few ideas on we might invest in our future together. I’d love to hear yours.


1) Make the world smaller by connecting everyone

Here in Seattle, we’re spending $179 million dollars per mile to connect a few suburbs to downtown via light rail for the benefit of about 25,000 people per day (half the original forecasted ridership).

This is last generation thinking. Think different. For each mile of light rail, we could lay a line of fiber across the entire state of Washington (about 360 miles), and give millions of people the bandwidth to telecommute. These people could then connect not just with people downtown, but the entire world, and help turn our jobs and economy overall in a more innovation-oriented direction. Reallocating funding in the form of tax credits or direct “I.T. innovation grants” would directly benefit more people, as well as reduce carbon emissions and oil dependency by several more orders of magnitude.

2) Improve The Experience Everywhere

In last generation thinking, corporate headquarters are the nerve centers of the organization, and remote sites have limited (sometimes asynchronous) access to corporate intelligence such as inventory, patient records, and client data. With a majority of customer interactions happening remotely (in storefronts, building sites, health clinics, schools, etc.), we need to focus on dramatically enhancing the customer experience wherever the customer is, not wherever corporate HQ happens to be.

Recent WAN optimization innovations offer five times the performance of first generation WAAS technology, with three times more scalability. Think different. Think about how many more multicast video streams could be delivered over an optimized WAN to bring virtual experts and customers together anywhere. Or how many more cloud applications could be delivered. Or how many more VDI clients, or mobile devices, including those that Apple pioneered, could be supported. These technologies can transform the branch experience for customers and employees alike, not to mention the proven TCO benefits.

3) Offer More Device Choices and More Security

Until recently, many I.T. organizations simply (and understandably) refused to support personal devices such as iPads, for obvious support and security reasons. This last generation thinking has been reinforced by malware encounters, which saw a four-fold increase in the first half of 2011. However, new cloud-based security options such as Cisco ScanSafe, can address these issues while reducing branch bandwidth by around 30% by reducing the need for web traffic backhaul.

Once again, think different. Think how mobile devices can revolutionize patient care, for example. Think about how to turn consumer devices on the network into an advantage by lowering cap-ex costs on PC refreshes, traditional client/server applications, etc. The good news is that many leading organizations are already moving this direction, with 90% planning to allow work applications on personal devices by 2014 (source: Gartner, August 2011).

It’s so easy to get trapped in our habitual modes of thinking, when we could solve many challenges by simply taking a different approach to them. Hopefully we can all inspire one another to look at things in new ways and think differently about the positive impact each and every one of us can make in an increasingly connected world.

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  1. Thanks so much for the read and the thoughtful comment. I agree with you that the transportation infrastructure in Washington D.C. is challenging. I was actually referring to public transportation in Washington state, which, arguably, is quite different because it's a much younger city that was essentially built around the car. We already have extensive bus, ride share, bicycle, and traditional rail infrastructure, which is one reason our light rail ridership is so low by comparison to other modes, and other cities. Additionally, Washington DC, unlike Washington state, has excellent fiber optic coverage (see: As long as there's a digital divide resulting from inadequate coverage - be it fiber, cable, or wireless, technologists will look for ways to close that gap and bring the human network to everyone on the planet. Have a great day and thanks again for your input.

  2. Well I agree innovative and thinking something new is the key towards improvement in existing technology but out of the ideas you have pitched i disagree that replacing the allocation of funds for constructing a light rail with installing fiber optic cable in Washington DC. People need light rail to travel themselves and transport their luggage. In order to maintain world standards infrastructure has to be created the convenience of people is preferred rather then the obsolete views of limited persons who already enjoy best infrastructure within their ambiance.