The global market scenario is undergoing rapid transformation. From an environment where large, branched out businesses had their aims set on monopolizing the global economy, we are making our way to an economic state which has a niche space carved out for indigenous, entrepreneurial and small scale businesses. Instead of expanding themselves, large enterprises today look to collaborate with or join forces with small businesses that bring with them unique ideas, a pool of rare talent and a work culture that views productivity, profit and business goals from a unique perspective. That is to say, that the norm is slowly becoming that of creating a network of businesses, instead of a single large entity. Diversity and versatility are two key factors that are driving this change. This is the story of how the much fussed over "SMB" or Small Business has risen to popularity in recent times.
Amidst this stir caused by the dynamic structure of enterprises and the way they function, technological needs have reoriented themselves and evolved based on the variety of structures we find across enterprises today. In a hyper-connected universe, technology is repeatedly being reinvented and innovated upon to suit these ever changing needs. This means, there is a desperate need for "Convergence". While this change is not only observable but distinctly at the forefront in the consumer technology arena, the centrality of its role in back end information and communication technology deserves more credit than is attributed to it.
As global enterprise giants depart on conquests to merge with or acquire smaller but more novel businesses, there comes into existence a disharmony in the management of information. What becomes necessary then, is a technology ecosystem that can wholly account for both, the advantages and shortcomings that accompany the parties involved in driving this transformation. In order to ensure a smooth operational and management transition, whether it is simple business expansion or crucial business collaboration, businesses look to invest heavily in IT in order to fuel their growth. To substantiate this in the Indian context, a Gartner report released in October 2013 confidently declares that Indian IT spending is likely to reach $71.3 billion in 2014, a 5.9 increase over the 2013 forecast. Evidently, with the evolution of the IT industry, businesses have greeted expenditure on IT solutions and services with more enthusiasm than one would hope for in a decelerating economic scenario.
While business goals and profit motives are driving small businesses to generate and retain a novelty factor, they must also take cognizance of the need to focus on the core that drives them. It is here that information storage, transfer, protection and usage come into play. The kind of disadvantages faced by growing small businesses are not those of expertise, but technical issues like a lack of a comprehensive IT architecture, difficulty in purchasing IT solutions due to lowered affordability and the hurdles faced in implementation and maintenance of a complex IT framework including time constraints, resource constraints and a lack of dedicated IT personnel.
The Need for SMBs
SMBs should be more careful while making technological decisions as every investment made by them is vital. For an ROI higher than the investment, with minimum maintenance required, a Micro Data Center (MDC) which epitomizes the benefits of technological convergence is a great investment strategy for SMBs. An MDC lessens the menaces spawned by not-so competent industrial segments, leading to amplified downtime, and consequently loss in productivity. Apart from this, an MDC is adept of outfitting to numerous requirements, from storage, network, VoIP and so on. And then there is the simplification of deployment and management. An MDC is easy to install, inter-operable remotely and secures & protect the stored data. Besides, several data centers can add up enormous expenditures to function plus decrease the efficacy of storage and operations. Deploying an MDC is a retort to these concerns, especially for SMBS that are engendering fresh data in excessive volumes.
An added benefit could also be that all tasks may be amalgamated into a solitary data center, permitting the growing businesses to own manifold data centers minus worrying about operability. This means that an SMB using an MDC would be able to maneuver various functions without the necessity to have a massive premise, hence reducing the number of personnel involved in managing and providing data center services. One may want to refer an MDC as the single platform or single location but multi-functional terminus for data storage, accordingly abridging life for system administrators and afterwards, businesses.
Another trend that demands tech-innovation similar to the micro data centers is that of mobility. Even if a small business is not rapidly expanding, it must sustain itself in a digital that is accessible on-the-go. Thus, with limited resources, small businesses have an overwhelming need to be able to embrace mobility whilst simultaneously accounting for limited IT accessibility themselves. A micro data center can then act as the one stop shop for storage, security, networking and remote management needs of a small business. In a nutshell, technology like that which is found in micro data centers focuses on overriding two key issues faced by smaller scale enterprises. It takes away the need for a multi layered ICT infrastructure, combining all data management into a single unit. The other advantage is that it aids speedy growth of business by simplifying the process of IT implementation, right from the planning required, to deployment, to usage and subsequently maintenance. Needless to say, it also eases the process of "going mobile," protecting the scale of investment that is otherwise necessary to relocate or expand. It eases the problems faced by small businesses in terms unattended operation, and safety and ease of management, issues which are of immense concern to smaller businesses.
One-stop Solution to Infrastructural Havocs
An MDC is that it houses a complete data center infrastructure in a single space - electronic devices, patch fields, cable management, grounding/bonding, power, and copper/fiber cabling -yet is sized to serve the demands of a manufacturing environment. The MDC is a new concept, representing the next phase in the business management. It is a center piece solution for branches with the design concept of simplified, open and "lights-out management". It incorporates the capacity of facilities integration, computing and storage, routing and switching, security and VPN, WAN and WLAN access, enterprise common applications such as VOIP, print and file server, etc. All of these are pre-integrated so that delivery and deployment become very fast and convenient. It has ambient sensors like smoke sensors, temperature and humidity sensors, water leakage sensors, intelligent PDU and dome camera. The MDC also can take the form of a networking hub that has no servers, existing primarily to tie cabling and switches together. For large manufacturing complexes or remote locations, an MDC can serve as a data collection node that passes manufacturing data up to the
enterprise (i.e., Store and Forward). Finally, an MDC can also house Virtual Machine (VM) systems for high reliability and efficient server utilization.
Indeed, ICT convergence has only just left the starting line. As more and more niche businesses come into the picture, and their importance is acknowledged by the erstwhile solo large enterprises, convergence has allowed for more growth that was once anticipated for small scale businesses. It is when such novel enterprises are able to strengthen, maintain and secure the core of their business, that they can achieve business excellence that is true to its meaning. While the average consumer is busy garnering information about the ways in which technological convergence, a term that doesn't even exist in his conscious mind, can change his life and make it more convenient, it is equally if not more, crucial to factor in the need for convergence in the enterprise world. The trend one expects to witness then, is one where complex IT needs are serviced by increasingly simplified technological solutions. When technology is equipped to deal with the apprehensions, disadvantages and hurdles that a small business may be expected to face in its growth, it is then that true technological brilliance will have been achieved.
The author is Goober, head solutions, Huawei Enterprise Business.