The pervasiveness of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and increasingly sophisticated consumer services have raised the bar for corporate IT departments. Employees expect a lot from the enterprise end user experience, more than in the past and expectations are accelerating. To stay competitive, companies must address these expectations.
This top-of-mind subject is the subject of a recent Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) white paper, “Application Fluency for a High-quality User Experience“ Enterprises must evolve their network infrastructures to support end-user mobility with bandwidth hungry applications on a variety of devices…The network must eventually evolve to allow connections to be maintained as end users move across the enterprise boundary and shift between different access technologies: wired, Wi-Fi, 3G, femtocell, and more.”. The paper notes that:
This requires what Alcatel-Lucent calls application fluency. Enterprise networks must be converged and fluent in a variety of applications to deliver a high-quality enterprise end user experience.
A high quality experience is achieved through simple, resilient and low-latency network architecture with built-in security. Alcatel-Lucent states that: “To improve end-user productivity, an application fluent network also features automatic controls for adjusting application delivery based upon profiles, policies and context.” It also needs to be architected to deliver automated provisioning and low power consumption.
An ideal enterprise end user experience is achieved through application fluency because it treats each conversation on the network as unique and can specify quality control accordingly. From a technical perspective, this conversation in context is provided by assigning each employee a user network profile (uNP) that the network then can use to tag (News - Alert) data and provision properly so quality of service (QoS) is maintained for a given user.
There is a lot more to be considered. Alcatel-Lucent says application fluency also includes,“The ability to detect a specific conversation when it is initiated on the network, assign a specific QoS treatment, monitor the actual QoS received and provide a dashboard for IT administrators to have visibility on the quality of the conversation.” For example, it might recognize a SIP call and assign it bandwidth priority to ensure call quality.
Beyond improving the user experience, application fluency also helps with pervasive mobility, enabling workers to better use their work equipment outside the office by supporting seamless access to applications and services as end users shift between different access technologies, networks, and change their context as a user, i.e., from personal mode to business for example.
Application fluency importantly is cloud friendly. It enables the ability to take advantage of the conversation management abilities that come with using uNP. And, enterprises can apply the security and QoS controls they need to safely adopt cloud services.
The building blocks
As the white paper details, building an application fluent network begins with the unification of:
- Access policy management
- Evaluation and enforcement for the Wi-Fi and wired networks in the enterprise
However, the unification of the network access layer cannot stop there. Enterprises must also integrate additional wireless/mobility capabilities such as femtocell and 3G/4G technologies to improve the end-user experience and reduce costs — an area of Alcatel-Lucent expertise based on its lightRadio technology now enhanced with its lightRadio Metro Cell Express which adds professional services to assist in helping in small cell deployments.
Last but certainly not least, moving to an applications fluent network means adding a network service orchestration layer. The reason is performance of the important task of discovering services available on the network and providing a common service provisioning and control portal to ensure interoperability between the individual services and the ability to easily share a common policy framework.
The term fluency has different connotations based on the use. For example, when used to describe speaking it refers to the smoothness or flow of somebody talking. In regards to language, it means roughly a high level of proficiency, i.e., and expansive vocabulary. When it comes to the future of networking, interestingly both definitions work. Success going forward is going to be a function of both smoothness and proficiency in regards to enterprise communications which is why being applications fluent is so important. It is what users are going to expect.