What the Transportation Industry Can Teach Enterprises About Modern Networks
Whether joining airline Wi-Fi with a single click or using a smart car to search for the nearest morning cup of Joe, today’s drivers and passengers take easy access to modern networks completely for granted. These commuters aren’t so different from enterprise customers. They want to connect to the network whenever they want, stay connected without interruption and feel confident that someone with expertise protects them from security risks.
The next time you open your desktop browser at work, remember that the modern networks you so easily access owe a lot to the transportation industry and the many lessons the sector can teach the business world.
Availability Is Everything
As a train chugs to its destination, The Oregonian explains, it goes past cellular towers from a wide range of providers. Its router adjusts constantly to different signals — from different companies, no less — and a less-than-smooth transition means Wi-Fi gets interrupted on board.
Additionally, in rural areas or locations where the cellular tower was built far from the tracks, it’s tough to get a signal at all. If you try to use the mobile hot spot on your smartphone, you’ll have the same problem. Although efforts to connect devices to a train’s LAN are a work in progress, the way trains are pushing their own modern networks forward offers valuable insight to today’s enterprise.
Stay on the Frontier
To help a moving train’s wireless router find an available cellular signal, tools such as cognitive radios, also called whitespace systems, constantly hunt for available spectrum according to availability and customer demand. These self-organizing networks are becoming a significant market force, with the market expected to expand to $4 billion within the next year, according to RnR Market Research.
Today’s average enterprise IT department experiences 2.3 business disruption events every year at an average cost of $418,071. Self-organized networks can significantly improve network availability in the enterprise by reacting to problems in real time. Additionally, technologies such as network function virtualization (NFV), software-defined networking (SDN) and cognitive computing are poised to help the enterprise adapt quickly to a wide range of variables. On the train, a dropped Wi-Fi connection is annoying, but in the enterprise, it’s too expensive to ignore.
Have an IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) Mindset
In transportation, availability is less about building infrastructure and more about connecting to resources while a vehicle is in motion — partnering to find services instead of doing everything alone. Within the enterprise, modern networks can improve availability and avoid single points of failure with cloud computing, remote data centers and other ITaaS initiatives. This mindset has the simultaneous benefits of lowering costs and bolstering business continuity.
Security Is Paramount
A cyberattack that allows someone to take control of an airplane is every airline passenger’s worst nightmare. Yet when passengers are accessing a plane’s network, each additional device becomes a potential attack vector. Once entities are connected via a network, they develop a fate-sharing relationship.
Airlines, in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), have worked for many years to balance the integrity of the plane’s command-and-control systems with the commercial benefits of offering network access to passengers. They’ve imitated work pioneered in the joint information environment (JIE) model, which enables multitenancy not only between agencies, but also between missions of varying secrecy levels.
On an airline, the FAA requires safety-critical systems and software to be isolated from passenger devices. It’s one more strategy that enterprises can emulate to protect their most important data and systems.
When provisioning storage within the enterprise, IT should differentiate between data that absolutely can’t be compromised — such as heavily regulated health care data, intellectual property or financial data — and data that, if breached, would cause only minimal damage. Although it’s impractical to protect everything equally, it’s vital to keep breaches of minor systems from giving attackers access to critical data. Modern networks in the enterprise must be segregated to protect both stored records and the most critical applications.
Creating Modern Networks in the Enterprise
There’s much to discuss about modern networks, from microlevel communications protocols like Zigbee and Bluetooth to innovations for WANs that cover entire cities and regions. But one thing is clear: If you’re looking for proven solutions, the transportation industry has a head start on finding the answers you need.