I’ve spent a good part of the last few years traveling to speak at trade shows, conferences and customer sites. A good rule of thumb is to have a prep call ahead of time to discuss the important details, like who will be attending and what they care about. This week I didn’t have the time to do so and I was reminded why it’s a good rule of thumb.

I moved to Atlanta last year and hadn’t yet been able to attend any Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) events and as fate would have it, Internap was offered a seat on yesterday’s panel for the TAG Infrastructure Society. I’ve done my share of speaking engagements, so I agreed and brought the typical Internap background slides. The topic title was interesting: “The death of hubs and switches.” Since this sounded like the change in client-side networks and Internap is a service provider, I thought sharing our perspective from the other side of the Internet would be an interesting view. Internap’s solution portfolio includes data center services (such as Colocation, Managed Hosting and Cloud) and optimized connectivity across the Internet, but a client’s internal network is outside of our domain.

When I arrived, the other panelist, David Quinn, Managing Director of IP UtiliNET, had set up a very nice miniature campus network on a single table with a small server, fiber switch, splitter, media converter, video camera and IP phone. By attaching a mobile network device, he had created a fully operational network with Internet connectivity. Being a technology geek at heart, I was suitably impressed and wanted to learn more about this demo environment. However, I had also just realized that I might not have the right slides for the audience…

David’s presentation touched on many topics, from the isolated networks that exist in traditional businesses today to tactical examples of how being able to correlate data from multiple device types (e.g., phones, cameras and automation systems) can enable 911 dispatchers to better assist first responders in the future. His presentation was more focused on the technology and supported the next-generation design that was working on the table.

As we moved into the panel questions, it highlighted that this is the fundamental difference between internal IT and cloud services. There are concrete devices and wires required to build the campus network, while the service provider offers abstract services. These services expect ubiquitous Internet access, and as more interactive and rich media content is being delivered, the need for more bandwidth in more places increases. If the cost of providing high speed internal network connectivity can be lowered via next generation networks, that enables more users to consume those services and it becomes a self-supporting cycle.

While I could have brought architecture diagrams and can speak to the technologies used to create the Internap cloud services (which I think the audience would have enjoyed), this would have defeated the purpose of the cloud. At its core, the cloud is usually a multi-tenant system that offers services that could be provided internally, but are managed by a service provider. The service provider handles the technology details, management and scaling, ultimately providing the service more flexibly and at a lower cost than implementing the service as a single tenant model internally.

In the end, this was a panel discussion and the very different, but complementary, perspectives provided a more complete view of how campus networking is changing and newer networking designs can liberate the IT budget, potentially for additional services for their end-users.

BTW, if you are one of the many organizations no longer asking “if cloud?,” but “which cloud?,” check out our eBook: Cloud Buyer’s Guide.