I have been reading a lot about "big data" these last few days and think that there is a great opportunity to provide business intelligence from the mounds of data that exist in the network access layer of many large organizations. At my last company we developed a network management system for WLANs. Wireless networking is quite different than the traditional ethernet network so it made sense to build a new class of tool that was able to report on the different aspects of wireless versus wired networks. However, like its wired NMS brethren, this wireless data is stuck within the IT department - where it provides a tremendous amount of value to the wireless network engineer - but the potential could be unlocked to provide even more interesting information to other workers.
Let me give an example, imagine if you were managing a store. One of your responsibilities is to ensure accurate inventory levels and corporate has outfitted your store with bar code scanners and the necessary inventory tracking software. You have a process where your employees take the scanners and check inventory at some periodic point in time. However, one day after the shift, one of your employees notices that only 10 of the 15 bar code scanners returned...where did the other 5 end up? Well wouldn't it be nice if you had the information about where that device was last located? Good news was that it was connected to the wireless store network so the wireless network management system could tell you where it was last seen. The data from the wireless NMS could be extended to this type of business user - the store manager - to create information about their bar code scanners. In this case where they are located.
There is certainly a lot of excitement around turning large data sets into meaningful information. I think there is a great opportunity to apply this thinking to traditional enterprise situations as well. Systems that have traditionally housed this data for one specific use can easily be repurposed for entirely new and never thought about circumstances. Now all we have to worry about are things like security, scalability, etc. - which, of course, are never so easy.
How would you imagine network data affecting business decisions your organization makes?