For the past few months, my colleagues and I have been traveling the country, hosting CIO dinners. We do so to learn about key issues and trends and to provide a venue for CIOs to share experiences with their peers. Lots of good food but even better conversations. Not surprisingly, those conversations often started with all the projects under way to address PCI 3.0, including EMV, tokenization, and encryption. What I learned is that although approaches may vary, everyone is spending a lot of time and resources to protect cardholder data. Many are making headway in this area and are now turning their attention back to their application roadmap.
When they do, it seems that one roadblock exists for all: “How do I optimize my store and cloud network to assure the performance of the applications I want to roll out?” A common phrase I heard was: “A skinny T-1 just won’t cut it anymore.” And most agreed that innovation is being throttled back because the cost of upgrading network bandwidth makes it difficult to create an ROI on any given project.
Most are moving to the cloud to gain efficiencies, reduce the bandwidth bottleneck at the corporate datacenter, and decrease the management burden. In fact, in a recent EarthLink webinar, 65% of participants said they believe everything soon will be in the cloud. But conversations at the dinner table centered on concerns about cloud-based application performance and the reality that moving to the cloud does not solve the bandwidth constraint at the store level.
The key is to leverage available assets such as the MPLS network to move the cloud-based application closer to the user. EarthLink’s Cloud Express does just that, which improves latency and reliability via redundant geographically dispersed connections. Using the core of the MPLS network makes sense but it is important to understand that the connection also is designed to scale quickly upon need while providing real-time visibility into utilization.
For women’s fashion accessory company Charming Charlie, an EarthLink customer, cloud has been a winning strategy. “We are gaining extensibility, faster time to market and speed to value,” CIO and Senior Vice President John Hnanicek recently said. “By moving away from the traditional IT model of ‘managing IT’ to leveraging the cloud to support growth and agility, we are free to focus on having the right product, people and strategies in place to expand our retail enterprise on a global scale and best meet the needs of our customers,” he added.
Retailers can address a problematic bandwidth bottleneck at the store level with Network Optimizer, EarthLink’s cloud-based network optimization service. More affordable than its appliance-based counterparts, cloud-based network optimization lets Retailers provide application visibility and control at each location. Understanding and managing real-time traffic priorities and application usage can help eliminate bandwidth bottlenecks. Some Retailers have found that properly managing their traffic and bandwidth consumption enables them to continue on with just a skinny T-1.
If not, the Network Optimizer service supports utilization of a less expensive broadband circuit (for example, cable alongside of a T-1) in an active/active state, which is more cost-effective and provides access diversity.
As we continue these dinners, we hope to learn more about current business challenges – this sharing helps us innovate helpful solutions.
Has a store-level bandwidth bottleneck impacted your business? Let us know in the comments field below.