Convergence and Social Media: Why Do We Care?

13 11 2009

Network Convergence

A lot has been written over the past few years about “technology convergence.” The problem is that there are many different technology convergences going on with different meaning and impacts for enterprise customers.   Let’s talk a bit about a couple of convergences and their impact enterprise social media.

Cloud Computing Convergence

Cloud computing convergence  is the coming together of three key technologies:

  • Server Hardware. These are the big computers with all the blinking lights mounted in racks in the back room. They do all the heavy lifting in the software application world.
  • Networking. These are the big routers and switches that handle enterprise IP network traffic.
  • Virtualization. This is software technology that applies a layer over server hardware and network equipment, allowing system administrators to manage their data centers as if it were a single giant pool of resources, assigning tasks to groups of computing or networking resources.

What’s happening is that network routers are becoming so powerful that vendors such as Cisco are adding general-purpose server blades to them in order to enable them to run software applications. That puts Cisco in direct competition with their former alliance partners HP and IBM. HP is retaliating by investing in their own HP ProCurve networking products and by acquiring 3COM. IBM has quickly moved to form alliances with Juniper Networks and others.

The convergence of these technologies is what is enabling a platform for a “cloud computing” architecture where hardware and networking resources become on large virtualized pool of resources organized to provided on-demand services over the Internet when and where they are needed.

  • For cloud computing service providers like Google and Salesforce.com, it means they can provide services to their community of users over the Internet to anybody who has a browser.
  • For enterprises, it means they can either purchase services from service providers or move their internal IT architectures to a “cloud computing” model to make their key services and data available to their mobile employees, partners, and customers as appropriate.

The bottom line for users, is that cloud computing service providers and enterprises are increasingly moving to a service provider model where their services are made available, on-demand, in a secure manner over the Internet to their mobile employees, partners and customers.

Networking Convergence

For years, we have all been using data over the Internet. Now, we are seeing more traffic from voice and video as well, all traveling over the same IP network. A high percentage of voice traffic still travels over carrier’s proprietary networks, but more traffic is moving to the “free” Internet every year.

Vendors like Skype have offered very low cost voice and video conferencing capability over the Internet for years.

This week’s announcement that Google acquired Gizmo5 immediately makes Google a serious competitor in that space.

The Impact to Social Media

There are a number of immediate impacts to Social Media that we will see in the very short term.

  • With data, voice and video running over the same IP networks, it will become much easer to integrate those services in interesting ways.
  • Social Media will not be limited to text and stored video. Network convergence will expand Social Media in the realm of real time communication with voice and video.
  • The “Cloud Computing” model will enable both enterprises and service providers to offer Web services inexpensively with high reliability and security.

So, what does this mean for Enterprise Social Media Marketing?

  • First, it will make you personally more productive. You will be able to access an increasing array of services, regardless of your location, to help connect with other people and to do your job more flexibly and better.
  • Second, it will provide new and better-integrated ways for you to communicate with your customers. Some quick examples:
    • When you want to communicate with somebody, there will be a rich array of options from short text messaging to full video conferencing.
    • Click on a name in an email or blog to talk to that person. No looking up numbers and dialing.
    • Drag & drop contacts to set up a video conference.
    • Ad hoc Video “Tweet-ups.”
    • Very direct customer feedback o products and product direction.
    • The quantity, quality, and velocity of customer feedback on your company and products will increase dramatically
  • Third, the companies that are the leaders today in Social Media may not be the leaders in 2 years. There is much market disruption and change yet to come.

For social media marketing, the relationship between vendor and customer is becoming less a matter of broadcasting the corporate message and much more of a two-way social interaction over an increasingly rich set of communication styles. The technology convergence trends are key enablers of this change.

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