What global firms are looking for in IT (part 2)

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The article below is a translation of the original:
Doing It Right: What global enterprises are looking for in IT infrastructure (part 2)

5 things every modern IT manager should keep tabs on when deciding on a telecom carrier

For IT managers, keeping an eye on global trends used to be somewhat, well, trendy. Nowadays, it’s a must, especially for decision makers that understand the flow of information as the lifeblood of companies in an increasingly globalized market.

Which trends are worth keeping an eye on though? How do they factor into determining whether a carrier can competently manage and deliver the flow of voice and data that global enterprises depend on? Read on for our look into telecommunications carriers and five of the top takeaways from these observations.

1. Reliability
One might assume that international carriers, having achieved a certain measure of success by virtue of becoming“global”, could also claim a certain measure of service reliability. Unfortunately, the level of quality can vary quite significantly from carrier to carrier and even country to country. A single carrier, for example, could very well provide excellent service in an advanced nation like Japan, which already has a reputation for high quality standards, yet fail to maintain that level of excellence across geographies. This inconsistency is the source of perpetual calls for quality improvement in the industry and growing demand for carriers who are able to comprehensively and consistently offer high quality, regardless of the country or region in which they operate. This begs the question of how we can determine whether a carrier can offer such reliability.

One way is to look at the financial industry, which has an established pattern of operating across urban markets worldwide, as well as an extremely low tolerance for service disruption, therefore requiring so-called redundantly configured connectivity. Even the most minor disruptions threaten the bottom line of the financial industry, driving the demand for service with ultra-low failure rates. And although the financial industry isn’t the only industry that requires a robust network and a low fault occurence, it is certainly one of, if not the strictest in this regard. Unsurprisingly, telecom IT aptitude within finance is trending higher than that of other industries to the point of drawing significant IT talent and evolution of micro-industries like FinTech.

So that’s all well and good for the financial industry, but how does that help everybody else? When you’re determining how trustworthy a potential carrier is, you’re probably not thinking about how many more transactions your latest algorithm can squeeze into a 10ms frame depending on Carrier A’s switching equipment. Speaking for a non-finance enterprise, one might say, “Yes, my organization wants reliable, global connectivity. But do we really need to run through hoops doing research to get it and have it run through hoops for us as if we’re Goldman Sachs?”

Of course not.

But, you can still leverage this trend in finance to your advantage. As a rule of thumb, if a carrier is experienced in serving the financial industry, it indicates a level of optimization and reliability that isn’t consistently present in so-called global carriers that are not equipped to handle e-trading.

Another factor to consider is locally stationed personnel. Local staff and knowledge of the country in which you operate provide advantages, such as the ability to readily recognize the state of communications, from both a competitive and legal standpoint. It is important to secure expert-level staff both in your base of operations and in the other countries in which you operate.

2. Existing Network Presence
When you think of factories, you tend to think of lines of production with distinct starting and ending points, whether physically within buildings or conceptually between factories and distribution outlets. You can imagine a business vector of sorts between the two points, with variables like size, velocity, etc., determined by profit margin, demand, etc. The focus of this model often falls on the starting point. It is, after all, the basis of existence for the other elements. But what happens when the path of production is compromised? A farmer can’t feed a village if his/her cart can only bring enough produce for 5 people and road conditions only allow goods to be transported every other day of the week. While exaggerated to a degree, these limitations also apply to network routes and how they apply to global operations.

Enterprises in the midst of globalizing operations need to secure network connections in cities around the world to help facilitate expansion in those target markets. For these businesses, selecting a good carrier is akin to acquiring a solid, private highway. However, there is a risk of running into service pitfalls when your carrier doesn’t actually own the road they’re trying to sell you. Many “global” carriers lack existing presence in international routes and are merely offering patchwork capacity from regional partners and competitors. Obviously, this creates limitations, not only in the level of support they can offer, but also in the degree of control IT managers have in utilizing their chosen infrastructure. For businesses that rely on having solid communication and data links, this can be the difference between reaching your destination and being stuck on the side of the road with a broken cart.

3. Local Expertise
As mentioned previously, quality is something that can vary tremendously depending on service area. What might be taken for granted in Barcelona might hit a roadblock in Beijing. This can be attributed to various factors, such as governing regulations, differing business environments, etc. Resolving these issues requires knowledge and experience of that particular region’s unique requirements. That in turn, calls for highly specialized and knowledgeable teams to ensure consistency in quality across regions.

Not all “global” carriers are willing to invest that far.

If your carrier cannot provide details into circuit construction, solid figures for time-to-recovery, granular data traffic reports, and other pertinent info, it’s a sign of incomplete coverage. This is where it’s advantageous to have a single carrier that can provide service and documentation in a centralized manner on a truly end-to-end basis, all the way up to local circuits on opposite ends of the earth. And this can only be done by carriers that owns their own facilities in the cities they serve.

4. Virtualization
SDN (Software-Defined Network) is an emerging technology that has been trending in recent years, which uses software to virtualize a dynamic network. SDN eliminates the need to administer physical machines and is characterized by the ability to construct, configure and/or delete a virtual network in seconds. For example, a user can connect Hub A to Hub B with a few simple clicks on a GUI-based portal site via SDN. Up until now, this level of configuration, quality control, and freedom was solely the domain of telecom carriers and data center operators. Opening up these domains to corporate users gives rise to advantages such as the agile and flexible use of a network suited to specific business situations. Imagine being able to build, re-route, and tear down canals on the fly to suit your specific applications and you have SDN.

Cloud services are charged on a pay-as-you-go basis. However, the network and storage supporting the cloud tend to involve a hefty monthly charge and annual contract. With SDN, networks will adapt to a form and payment model that more closely aligns with user needs and make global expansion a plug and play experience.

5. Global management ability and multi-lingual support
A high level of reliability, a network base suited to global expansion, and the service capacity and quality control of local hubs ultimately require the ability for comprehensive global management. Does your carrier have the personnel to collect information gleaned from operating multiple global points of presence and turn that information into an actionable agenda that benefits your needs?

Multi-lingual support plays a key role in global management, allowing fluid control of service quality in a centralized manner. It is also very important to have staff in each city that can provide support to users in their language.

Carriers are paying more attention to multi-lingual capabilities as a factor in building trusted partnerships in regional markets. Establishing more direct relationships with local server vendors, providers, data centers, and other business operators provide competitive advantages that in turn benefit end users.

Global expansion is a multi-faceted process, of which determining what carrier to use is but a single step. But, it is a singularly crucial step that can put a company on the road to success or failure. Hopefully, the five points above make that determination easier and help identify whether yours has the knowledge and track record sufficient to bring you to new shores.

“Being able to offer an ultra-low-latency network optimized to the microsecond has helped our service stand out and earn the patronage of industries that have a strong need for speed and reliability, such as global financial institutions,” says Masato Hoshino, Executive Officer of Colt Technology Services. “Currently we develop, own, and operate 48 metro-area networks in 28 countries that connect more than 200 cities in Europe and Asia. We continue to grow, and in addition, we have a sufficient pool of in-market talent helping to drive a cohesive management strategy in every region we operate. Our area of specialization is high-bandwidth networks, putting us in the ideal position to address coming demand as awareness of IoT and big data in the cloud era increases.”

Blurred group of business people commuting on the streets of Japan

Make Do

06 June 2016

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