5G connectivity isn’t “the final frontier,” but it’s still a new frontier, and businesses are going where no network has gone before. Just like deep space exploration, taking full advantage of 5G requires preparation and a dash of courage to navigate successfully.
Today, over 60% of Australian businesses are looking to tap 5G’s speed and capacity for greater productivity and efficiency, but only 24% feel confident in adopting the technology.
This suggests enterprises are sensing a void between promised capabilities and missing vendor details on how they’ll add 5G to their competitive arsenal.
Solving this challenge can put additional pressure on business IT. Though 5G’s touted cornucopia of benefits is well-documented, the back-end changes and overhauls needed to make these benefits a reality aren’t.
What are the potential pitfalls IT needs to watch out for? What strategies can they adopt to make the transition as seamless and painless as possible?
Warp speed or warped expectations?
The germinal state of 5G deployment, networks, and handsets means the full potential of most businesses will only be realised in the coming decade. Like with LTE, businesses are waiting for the proper network infrastructure and practices to be put into place.
The 5G hype machine, however, is building users’ anticipation for near-term radical leaps in performance and accessibility. Customers will expect every application and service to be turbocharged from day one.
Businesses will be placing bets on 5G performance, even while its current-gen infrastructure underpinnings may create network hiccups and a tirade of complaints.
Without sufficient preparation, IT experts will be forced to dedicate unplanned resources to solving connectivity and stability issues while staving off transformation pressure from the business. For most organisations, this is a lot of speculative budget planning.
Thankfully, monitoring improvements should lessen 5G teething pain, and businesses have also learned from 4G/LTE connectivity.
Near real-time monitoring remains the first line of defence for IT, providing data to identify bottlenecks and the last-mile capacity limitations of patchwork 5G coverage.
For example, applications may function differently depending on frequency, base station density, and transient mmWave interference.
Furthermore, new options like end-to-end network slices and dedicated IoT networks will present novel volume and traffic variety.
Reliable service delivery over these links will be impossible without infrastructure and end-user monitoring to help untangle evolving unknowns.
Reroute all power to monitoring
Most IT veterans can already see another familiar foe appearing in their viewscreens. With 5G’s greater bandwidth comes more data the business will be eager to consume, and even well-equipped IT teams may have to rethink their data management approach.
Collecting useful data to identify root network and application issues while filtering it from a fire hose of network noise will be critical. IT teams typically address increasing data transport and storage needs with enhanced instrumentation.
Modern monitoring systems can simplify this task, making it easier for IT teams to include additional metrics and signals related to their unique businesses.
Admins will also strive to put 5G-related performance data side by side with cloud and on-prem infrastructure, connected by application context.
But engineering’s appetite for collecting detailed, 5G-specific performance data should reassure businesses of 5G’s advantages. IT has always been a centre of digital blacksmithing, hammering yet another new technology into useful platforms and business services.
Tracing problems back to their source and mapping and identifying issues along the way has always been based on production data—not test data.
More than aiding in the quick resolution of service issues, it also alerts IT pros to user issues outside the firewall, even if the issue is technically the purview of another organisation.
Collected user experience data also informs IT strategy for business applications, providing specific details for how current and future 5G products can be improved.
Lastly, increased visibility allows IT teams to deploy all manner of cybersecurity defences, alerts, and firewalls from the network core all the way out to 5G’s feathery, nebulous edge.
An advanced bridge with plenty of scanners is exactly what IT teams need. They’re managing customer expectations and business risks as their organisations go boldly into 5G.
During adoption, the most dangerous thing any business can do is ignore and allow customer frustrations to boil over.
With a proactive stance, however, IT can continue to minimise poor user experiences and help customers become partners in the success of new 5G applications.
It’s great when monitoring tools allow IT teams to identify and resolve issues before they’re obvious, but it’s even better to provide experiences creating word of mouth for your brand.
As with any new technology or innovation, “unknown unknowns” will always lurk in the background for 5G. The goal for CIOs should be minimising interdictions as IT goes full warp on their journey to 5G.
Useful monitoring of the network from source to destination will be key, helping IT teams troubleshoot immediate issues while becoming experts in 5G application delivery.
Though the person in the captain’s chair sets the course, IT safely navigates the ship to the destination. Enterprise IT will set the direction for business and the future of 5G, always going into the beyond with eyes wide open.
Patrick Hubbard is the Principal, Head Geek™, and Tech Marketing Director at SolarWinds.