Not surprisingly, as a networking company Cisco frequently publishes predictions on the growth of Internet traffic. Bragging unintended, typically the forecasts are pretty accurate. In a 2012 report we predicted that by 2017 there would be 2.5 devices and related connections for every person on earth, while there would be 5 devices and related connections for every Internet user in the same year. In the same report, we also predicted that this burst in hyperconnectivity – including machine to machine connections that are increasingly prevalent with growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) – would create more global network traffic in 2017 alone than in all prior “Internet years” combined.
How correct were our predictions? You don’t have to wait until 2017 for an answer. Welcome to the early arrival of the future of networked communications – a future where the hyper-distribution of information is driving new business demands, and where the old rules of data management and analytics no longer apply. Data is no longer passive. Central stores of stale information aren’t sufficient. Analytics can’t be an afterthought. The new rules require that you live your business daily on the edge of your network, where vital customer and market data is created. And you need to be prepared to respond to what you learn immediately. Are you ready to live on the edge?
The Future is Now . . . Like it or Not
Pervasive connectivity and ubiquitous cloud services have reset user expectations for all types of products and services. A wider and wider variety of connected endpoints combined with mobile and cloud service delivery expands both the kinds and types of data generated by and about users, as well as the devices and the processes that connect them. Data may come from various sources – operations, infrastructure, sensors, etc. Machine intelligence will become better and better, replacing human reasoning in some cases. And, like humans, machines will develop deeper and deeper insights through continuous learning over time. The good news is that increasingly intelligent machines will free humans for even bigger thinking – and the process will keep repeating itself – machines and humans cooperating for a more intelligent whole.
But the network’s edge ultimately belongs to the end-user. Consumers are well positioned to define and demand a technology experience that meets their specific requirements. Enterprises undergoing digital transformation understand this. Using IT automation, these companies are moving intelligence and analytics to the edge of the network to understand how to benefit from this new perspective. Put simply, analysis is moving to where the data is generated for instant business insights.
The list of challenges for companies coping with the nature and the speed of digital transformation is a long one. Here are a few of the most critical:
- The variety of data on the network increases with every new application used
- High velocity, valuable information from market data, mobile, sensors, clickstream, transactions and other sources requires a new approach to data management
- Almost universal connectivity has reset user expectations for all types of services
- Data insights are often perishable and need to be acted on immediately
- Competitive pressures and increasing customer expectations require that businesses anticipate customer needs, react instantly, and make decisions in real-time
Shape the Edge to Your Requirements
Enterprises of all kinds are responding to these challenges in innovative ways to gain competitive advantage. One example is retailers, which I profiled in an earlier blog on the future of shopping. Merchants understand that the longer a shopper remains in a store the more likely the prospect is to purchase. So, if a retailer can increase a shopper’s “dwell time,” it is more likely to stimulate a purchase. We’re seeing retailers do this today as they measure where, how and why buyers make decisions on the path to purchase starting at the network’s edge. Through customized applications that permit the retailer to analyze real-time customer engagement with products or in-store displays, the retailer gains immediate insights that let it customize a promotional offer by individual and then push the offer instantly to the consumer’s device. This sort of personalized interaction also creates a better customer experience.
From a service provider’s perspective, knowing the habits of your mobile customers can help it improve service delivery, lower costs and enhance customer loyalty. Again, this knowledge starts at the edge of the network by analyzing continuous feedback on the use habits of mobile subscribers. For example, a service provider can determine unique and new clients, analyze usage by day, week or month, gather active session information to identify network usage patterns or manage promotional programs, determine authenticated vs. unauthenticated associations to identify potential subscribers, or grab information on total data usage to pinpoint network anomalies or usage spikes. These and other edge measurements can then be further analyzed for trends. Automation enables the analysis. The analysis, in turn, creates fast decision-making, which leads to concrete business outcomes.
The Way Forward . . .
If you believe living on the edge is vital to your business, it’s important to have a strategic framework in which to manage your digital transition. First, think of your analytics’ needs in three parts: 1. Real time analysis; 2. Data management; 3. Flexibility of use. Then, demand that the analytics solution you choose to move forward with addresses the requirements for each part as I describe below:
1. Real Time Analysis
- Real-time trending
- Dynamic dashboards
- Predictive analytics integration
- Continuous queries
- Event generation
2. Data Management
- Ability to combine information from network and applications
- Seamlessly query live and historic data
- Historic reporting framework
- Analysis of complex queries from fact streams and dimensional data
- North/south and east/west interfaces for customization
- Multi-vendor extensibility
Living on the edge of your network doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, you’ll come to like the speed at which you’ll find new business insights. Cisco can help in your transformation to a digital business with automation and analytics at its core. I plan to share more on this topic at the Cisco Data and Analytics Conference on October 20-22 in Chicago. I hope you can join me at that time.
Meanwhile, I’m interested to hear how you feel about the importance of managing and analyzing data at the edge of your network. What are the issues and opportunities that you see?