Window on WANs

Jun 9 2009   8:49PM GMT

Email’s Sting: Moving beyond the buzz of ‘killer apps’

Tim Scannell Profile: TScannell

Of all the overused and inane buzzwords in the IT industry, the phrase “killer application” has to be right up there in the top five. Vendors peddling superfluous technology and latest add-on add-in kudzu always seem to truck out this term when they talk about future strategies and market share, as in, “Our new whiz-bang gizmo will surely take off when that ‘killer app’ surfaces to drive the demand for our product!”

Analysts and market researchers, like weather forecasters, don’t often take the time to look out the window to see what is happening in the real world. As a result, they too throw around buzzwords and generic terms like beaded necklaces at a Mardi Gras parade. Among the terms now being tossed in the air to giddy end users are cloud computing, telepresence and social computing -– the last one of my favorites since the antithesis would, of course, be anti-social computing. I also like it when vendors marry buzzwords and come up with terms like “unified communications in the cloud,” which suggest that clouds are getting in the way of clear market thinking.

WAN-dow dressing

Killer app is particularly annoying, though, since there is really no such thing because the applications in use are obviously more important to me than the applicants used on your systems. It’s just that simple and personal. If there is one application that might be awarded “killer” status, however, it is email, since everyone knows it, loves it (most times) and uses it. You can drape it in all sorts of buzzword dressing and fold it into such terms as collaborative computing, unified communications or instant messaging, but, at the end of the day, it works, it’s effective and it is the mainstay of most any enterprise computing network.

At Carhartt, Inc., a global maker of work clothing and accessories, search and MAPI (messaging programming application interfacing) activities eat up most of the network bandwidth throughout the company’s 16 or 17 worldwide sites. In fact, this is the reason why the company started playing around with optimization solutions a year or two ago (read more on this in an article published on the Web site, or for those of you with a penchant for buzz-abbreviations –- SeWAN).

As Tom Wesselman, senior manager of software development at Cisco, points out: It’s hard enough to sell solutions during an economic downturn without confusing the basic message with buzz-term doublespeak. At the end of the day, people are not concerned with the latest device or next-generation collaboration system, but simply that “you are reachable with the medium you want to be reached at.”

In most cases, simple and unfettered email works just fine. In other cases, just mean poking your head above your cubicle and talking to someone is a lot better and effective than zapping IMs and email to and fro.

The point is that email is and will continue to be the major application on most every corporate network for the foreseeable future – no matter how you embellish it and pimp it out with the technology approach du jour. You will see some changes, of course, especially in how enterprises deploy email applications and channel them through their networks. Google, Microsoft, IBM and others are all working on putting software as a service (SaaS) spin on email to cut costs and reduce support and service burdens.

Enterprise SaaS e-mail is an early sign of change coming to IT organizations that enable the challenges of deploying to cloud based platforms,” notes market researcher Burton Group, in its latest report. We’ll agree, despite their use of the “cloud” buzzword. Let’s just hope they and others take the time to open a window and keep an eye on the real world as these changes come to networks and network designs.

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