The blogger’s version of a new gym membership is the prediction post: a predictable way to start the year. I’ve been a little slow “getting back on the treadmill” this year, and I’m looking at this post about what’s happening in the world of networking the same way: a little late, but with a little variety.

It’s all about the consumer… And that goes for B2B too. Yes, consumerization is about users wanting to buy their own devices and run their own apps. But consumerization has changed the relationship between lines of business and IT, and the relationships between businesses. Organizations now look to IT (the function, not the organization) not as a set of applications or a pile of data, but as a set of services that they need to consume efficiently, cost-effectively, and with the greatest catalyzing effect on their actual work. And if IT (the organization) can’t provide it at all, or at the right cost, or quickly enough, they’ll go outside the firewall and the org-chart for it. Just as employees bring their own iPhones or Xooms, lines of business “bring their own” SaaS CRM or BI provider — and even within IT, developers “bring their own” dev/test service provider.

Those “consuming” organizations turn the world of the network on its ear. Remember when the slogan was “the network is the computer”? Now, the network is everything. Or, to be clearer and less grandiose, everything is the network. Instead of the network being the thing that connects a client to a server, or a server to storage, or an app to a database, the network is the end-to-end experience that includes all of those elements and coordinates their delivery as consumable services. The network can be as tangible as copper and as ethereal as, well, the ether — wired and wireless. Bridging these geographically, organizationally, and politically disparate elements, and keeping them safe and efficient even when shared, is also a part of the network. With resources that are located physically and organizationally anywhere — with a user on a tablet in a comfy chair at Starbucks using a BI SaaS application that uses transaction data on the corporate network and trend data at another SaaS provider, sharing it with a corporate partner on another corporate network — it becomes clear that not only are the physical resources part of the network, but also, and maybe more important, so are key concepts such as identity. Identity becomes perhaps the most important “BYO” in the network.

If your business card says “IT” on it, it may sound like this leaves you out of the picture, institutionalizing the end-run that SaaS and IaaS providers have made possible for users to take. Well, not exactly. Because as with sports teams, so it goes with IT: it’s not the ownership that defines how it works, it’s the management. IT organizations will succeed, where success means helping the rest of the business get the job done, by being able to ensure service delivery throughout the complex and interconnected end-to-end network. Even — especially, perhaps — in the resources they don’t own. Whether it’s the wireless at the coffee bar or the multi-tenant interconnect at the hosting provider or the storage at the hot-site center. IT needs to be able to assure availability, performance, security, and compliance. In fact, perhaps the best way to think of what IT delivers to the line of business is “Management-as-a-Service.” (Does this mean that the thing that IT staff want to avoid most is “Midnight MaaS”?!)

So: the mindset of the consumer informs business IT; everything is part of the network; and management is how IT organizations deliver value to the business, no matter who owns the resources.

And, oh, yeah, one more prediction. Back to the treadmill — and the prediction blog — early next year.