CIO’s new responsibilities – the network manager’s?

As a CIO, how friendly are you with your network manager or administrator? This is no flippant question. Your friendship status could well be put to the test soon, depending on how territorial he or she is about holding on to the reins of the network. This is because a report just issued by industry commentator, Nick Lippis, suggests that the CIO or IT manager is set to usurp the network manager’s role in life.

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By  Colin Edwards Published  April 23, 2006

|~||~||~|As a CIO, how friendly are you with your network manager or administrator? This is no flippant question. Your friendship status could well be put to the test soon, depending on how territorial he or she is about holding on to the reins of the network. This is because a report just issued by industry commentator, Nick Lippis, suggests that the CIO or IT manager is set to usurp the network manager’s role in life.

Now why on earth would a CIO whose eyes are firmly set on entrenching his position on the business side of the IT job equation suddenly go all techie on the world and hanker after taking responsibility for the organisation’s communications network? And all this at a time when many CIOs believe their importance to an organisation warrant them pitching to replace the ‘I’ in their title with an ‘E’.

Lippis believes web services and the inevitable movement to service oriented architectures (SOA) are redefining the IP telephony landscape in organisations today. The likes of Cisco, rather than be pure play infrastructure vendors, are intent on becoming part of the communications application environment. The impact this will have on the network manager’s life could be of massive, if not immediate, proportions, and will disrupt every facet of how communications support and enable business.

“By abstracting communication services to be a ‘callable’ entity within a web services-based Business Process Modelling tool or BPM, the design and purchase responsibility of communications will shift yet again into executive IT management,” writes Lippis, pointing out that just as network convergence saw the demise of the telecommunication manager and his PBX responsibilities, so SOA spells the end of the network manager and his communications infrastructure management function.

“Think of it this way: communication will increasingly become linked to business process through applications, not the phone. Those who define business process automation through IT will define the underlining communications infrastructure,” he adds.

It was Cisco which took the lead into communications application at the end of last year when it unfolded its latest vision of a service oriented network architecture (SONA). The architecture has been designed to bring SOA and virtualisation strategies into the network. As the network — especially the IP network — is ubiquitous in today’s enterprises, Cisco advocates that middleware functions be moved directly to the networks rather than have the software sitting in a central server.

It argues that where SOA promises flexibility to business applications, SONA also brings it to the operational side of IT - network management, authentication, service levels maintenance and the like. Just as it brings the network's functions further up the stack, so too is it designed to position Cisco's importance higher up the IT management food chain.

As Lippis puts it: “There is a tsunami coming but its impact will not be felt in one huge wave, but it smaller wavelets. As IT managers and developers create communications-enabled business applications with web services, the power and influence which network managers held over communications will increasingly weaken with every new communication application wave deployed.”

Who’s going to be first to break the news?

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