Software-defined Networking (SDN) is an approach to cloud computing that aims to improve network performance and monitoring. Intelligent CIO hears from one industry expert, who argues that the store of the future will use seamlessly integrated technology to create a wonderful retail experience for all its customers and lower costs at the same time.
Metacom CEO Réan van Niekerk believes that what makes a retail experience great is being recognised and valued as an individual.
“Fifty years ago, or perhaps even today in small neighbourhood stores, that could happen because owners, staff and customers all know each other,” said van Niekerk.
“Massive retail chains killed that personal experience, but technology is starting to bring it back.”
It’s already possible for retailers to identify regular customers the moment they walk into the store and send special offers to their phones, or even arrange a personal greeting by the manager.
“The only thing that’s stopping your local retailer from doing it tomorrow is the cost, but it doesn’t have to be expensive,” added Van Niekerk
“Personalised service to customers these days is dependent on reliable, fast and secure communications.
“The dawn of the Software-defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) means that standard of communication is now within reach of every retailer, no matter how tight their margins.”
Van Niekerk says Metacom’s managed network can deliver anything from financial transaction processing, Internet radio, Internet video and VOIP telephony to free wi-fi for customers.
“We can switch and control anything you like – using almost any protocol communicating with any hardware,” he said.
“And we can remotely upgrade and configure our systems anywhere in the world.”
Pepkor IT executive Conrad Reinke revealed at the inaugural Metacom Insight event that Metacom provides all networking services to nearly 4,000 group stores across Africa.
“We serve the cost-conscious market so cost control is very important to us, but so is reliability and that is why Metacom is the right partner for us,” said Reinke.
“Metacom is the reason our stores now provide a wide range of value-added services like bill payments, airtime purchases and money transfers, as well as handling peak volumes with ease.”
Van Niekerk says Metacom’s new MC6000 Enterprise Router, the latest in a range of network devices the company has designed and manufactured, is a key component of its ability to roll out future services.
“Like our previous routers, it can link every remote point into a seamless network regardless of whether connectivity is supplied by fibre, LTE, ADSL, satellite or even radio,” he said.
“We know power supply reliability is an issue in many places, so it has dual power supplies; and it has integrated multimedia capability to play in-store Internet radio and video, and ample processing capability for edge computing. And you can control many of the advanced features from a smartphone app, even if you’re in Cape Town and the router is in Luanda.”