Accommodating the app explosion
The abundance of applications in the market has important ramifications for the network.
CIOs and network managers will soon be faced with a new challenge - managing the application tornado that is fast approaching. Application abundance is a new computing trend that is being driven from the consumer computing space, into the corporate world, and carries significant implications for the network.
The increased adoption of cloud computing, the proliferation of mobile devices in the workplace driven largely by the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, and the shift to computing models that predominantly utilise hosted applications, are all set to significantly increase the amount and change the type of data traversing the corporate network.
This means more enterprise applications are moving into the cloud, as increased bandwidth and the move to mobility drive the adoption of cloud computing models. The increased number of mobile devices entering the network, in the form of tablets and smartphones, is also resulting in the increased use of personal and enterprise applications that have been downloaded from app stores and used for business purposes.
A Satov Consultants Siemens IT end-user study, released in June 2012, found that 88% of users downloaded applications from consumer app stores, while only 12% downloaded applications from enterprise app stores.
As such, both fixed and mobile users now have 'always-on' access to data and services through the increasing number of applications they use on a daily basis, which will have a tornado-type effect on the corporate network. This will necessitate a need to 'break out' of the network to give users in any location, on any device, access to data and services, which were previously contained in a 'closed' network environment.
So data packets need to be prioritised differently as a different type of data transfer now needs to take place to enable the same functionality. The traditional way of provisioning these capabilities on an MPLS network is therefore no longer suited to this new paradigm, as the connection users use to access business applications becomes an Internet request.
This means data packets need to be prioritised differently as a different type of data transfer now needs to take place to enable the same functionality. Quality of service must incorporated as an enhancement to traditional MPLS networking configurations, as multiple applications in a single class of service cannot be prioritised over one another.
Plan for the inevitable
Corporate networks need to evolve to an application-aware, optimised platform. This will ensure improved business efficiency by prioritising mission-critical applications and ensuring an adequate quality of experience for end-users on these applications. Companies also have to ensure optimal network behaviour as it will have a direct impact on productivity and efficiency.
IT departments are unaware of at least two-thirds of the mobile apps being used in the workplace.
The first step to accommodating the abundance of applications now found on the corporate network is gaining greater awareness of the applications traversing the network. In a snap poll, most respondents grossly underestimate the number of applications that employees are using on the corporate network. An analysis of these clients showed that there were, on average, 100 apps traversing the network, instead of the estimated 10. The Satov Consultants Siemens IT end-user study supports these findings, as it also found that IT departments are unaware of at least two-thirds of the mobile apps being used in the workplace.
Companies, therefore, need to gain greater visibility in terms of what traffic is running on their networks, which can be achieved with a comprehensive network discovery. This will determine what applications are being used, from where and when.
The resultant report should be as granular as possible so companies can determine application usage on a per branch, per user, or per device basis, with the ability to measure quality of experience on a user level. This will ensure IT managers can determine the most commonly used and the most data-intensive applications. They can then determine which applications are mission-critical and prioritise network traffic to accommodate and enable the more efficient use of these apps, while limiting or throttling the numerous applications that offer less value to the organisation.
By gaining greater visibility into the corporate network, the IT department will be empowered to make meaningful changes to network performance, and prioritise the important applications, data and services businesses need to effectively and efficiently operate. Without these insights, a company will not have the ability to accommodate the abundance of applications being used in the workplace, which will erode the value proposition of this computing model by reducing network performance and efficiency.
Through greater network and application awareness, real-time insights into network performance and the ability to optimise traffic, companies can begin to fully harness the power of applications to ensure scalability within the network, provide greater flexibility, improve performance, reduce costs on bandwidth and accommodate the pending application explosion.