Are Companies Ready For Real Time?

Most businesses, about 80 percent, will have to make serious adjustments to their network servers before rolling out real-time applications and capabilities, according new Gartner research. "The problem is that businesses are coming from legacy architectures and legacy applications, which means batch thinking, not real-time thinking," says Bill Clark, a research director for Gartner. "There was no technology previously available that could accommodate the type of data traffic necessary for enabling the real-time enterprise." Clark says that wireless networks are farther behind traditional server networks, but there is still a ways to go before most companies' networks are updated in a way that makes real-time a reality. By 2007 networks will be more up-to-speed to handle real-time traffic, Clark says. "However, there are some more aggressive companies out there that are finding ways to make their networks work in real-time, and that can give them a significant competitive advantage going forward," he says. For those companies attempting to make real time happen now, according to Clark, it is important to work closely with network service providers to determine what parts of the business can be updated into real time. According to Gartner research, there are four general steps companies can follow to help facilitate this early real-time push: link real-time efforts with important industry drivers and determine key business goals that must be supported by revisions to business processes; benchmark critical business processes and form process improvement plans; determine the impact of real-time extensions of business applications to achieve the key business drivers; and identify the new real-time requirements that the application extensions place on networks. Clark cites United Parcel Service (UPS) as one company that has taken a realistic approach towards enabling the real-time enterprise today. "UPS has spent about $125 million on mobile and wireless tracking solutions, making it easy to access second service providers in instances where there is no access to the primary server," he says. "The company identified a potential network problem and architected its model to overcome those problems." There has been much talk of how the real-time enterprise is really about business process changes and not about technology, but Clark disagrees: "A lot of changes involve business-process changes, but at the end of the day you have to have the wired or wireless connectivity to fuel the constant updates and data traffic the real-time enterprise demands," Clark says.
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