Taking back control
Network awareness is an essential undertaking for IT professionals.
As the 'on-demand' consumption of IT services grows and continues to filter through to the corporate world, network administrators should start asking themselves: "Who is in control of my network?"
The corporate network continues to experience massive step changes in terms of the type of content and the amount of data traversing it. In the past, this was easily controlled and managed, as networks were closed and administrators knew exactly what applications, software and services were running over them.
However, as more employees choose to follow the bring-your-own-device trend, and more software vendors adopt an application-based approach to their operating system environments, the paradigm is shifting.
It is the end-users who now dictate the type of content being accessed across the corporate network, as they are introducing an abundance of applications into the business environment. In a poll taken by Internet Solutions of various clients, it was found that most customers grossly underestimated the number of applications that employees were using on the corporate network. An analysis of these clients showed that there was, on average, a tenfold increase from the perceived to the actual number of applications traversing the network: 10 estimated, to 100 applications in actuality.
Many of today's sophisticated multi-party applications also use multiple traffic streams and have very different characteristics to more traditional enterprise applications. Today's apps require more information in the form of device, presence and location data.
Other shifts in computing models, such as cloud computing and the provisioning of software as a service (SaaS), also add to this increase in network traffic. Bit streams are transported over the network infrastructure to enable value-added services such as video conferencing, converged communications, virtual processing, and data storage and retrieval.
This means a tipping-point is rapidly being reached in terms of the capacity and capabilities of current MPLS networks to support these shifts in usage patterns. Traditional closed network infrastructures can no longer meet the business demands of a more mobile and consumer technology-driven workforce. Simply throwing additional bandwidth at the problem will not provide an adequate or cost-effective solution to this complex problem.
It is the end-users who now dictate the type of content being accessed across the corporate network.
As such, CIOs and network administrators are now faced with the challenge of ensuring optimal network behaviour, thus ensuring productivity and efficiency are not negatively impacted. Taking back control of the corporate network from these applications has become a top priority.
To succeed, they need to resolve performance optimisation conflicts using smart solutions that deliver optimised quality of experience, and shift traditional network management models, like load balancing, to those that ensure low latency and application provisioning. This approach will deliver on the true value of the application-based computing and SaaS models, which is greater workforce productivity and business efficiency.
The first step to reclaiming control of the corporate network in the age of application abundance is network awareness. Through the process of discovery, network administrators can gain greater visibility into what is actually running on the corporate network, and can identify the most data-intensive applications and services.
Without a clear view of what is running over the corporate network, administrators won't know how to manage the diverse traffic streams created by the various applications and services running on the network. With this information, they can ensure the mission-critical applications and services get preference over the non-essential ones, like social media and general Web traffic. The implementation of the correct network optimisation tools, adequate usage policies and the correct network configurations will enable network administrators to boost network efficiency and functionality almost immediately.
Gaining greater awareness about the number and types of devices that are connecting to the network, and from where and when, can also add significant benefit to the network optimisation process. For instance, as network connections increase or decrease based on daily demand, the network will need to adjust quickly to accommodate spikes and maintain operational efficiency on mission-critical services and applications during peak usage times. This information is also essential to allow administrators to develop systematic methods for prioritising the vital services and applications that are competing for network resources during those times.
Greater network awareness will also deliver feedback to the IT department once it 'flicks the switch' on the network optimisation tools and/or systems.
Through this process of discovery, administrators will gain the network awareness and visibility they need to make the changes required to ensure continued network performance and efficiency in a rapidly changing environment. Without this visibility, companies will simply optimise all network traffic and lose the ability to prioritise the applications and services that have the greatest impact on their business.
Administrators need to gain a level of network awareness that provides greater control and enables them to prioritise and optimise the applications, data, and services that allow optimal business operation. It is safe to say that gaining network awareness has become the most important task for the modern IT professional.