by Eduard du Plessis, MD of EOH Network Solutions Division
Many companies around the world are battling to manage the performance of complex corporate networks that span vast territories and are made up of thousands of end points. As they try to keep up with the pace of change, and the introduction of disruptive technologies such as the cloud and big data, they tend to approach network performance management in a reactive way.
They deploy technologies and solutions in isolated, trouble spots, often without an all-encompassing strategy or real visibility into the network. The advent of cloud has made some organisations forget the basics of IT, in terms of network and capacity management, and change control. In their haste to jump on the cloud bandwagon, they overlook other vital aspects of their information technologies.
The increasing demands on networks
One of the most crucial elements over which corporates must keep control is their network infrastructure. The introduction of the cloud requires an even greater emphasis on the network’s importance to IT operations. Now that servers and sensitive information are stored in the cloud, we will see an increase in network traffic as users pull that data from satellite offices and branches across the globe.
In addition, with workforces increasingly geographically dispersed and accessing the corporate network from many locations, the network has become the single most important operational tool for a business. Because of this, organisations are looking for ways to boost the efficiency of their networks, to make their networking budgets stretch a little further.
Here are some tips for organisations wanting to optimise their networks to avoid bottlenecks that are an inevitability in today’s business IT environment.
The cornerstones of network optimisation
• WAN optimisation
This is an array of techniques designed to manage network traffic by lowering redundancy and inefficiency in network traffic, thus cutting down on traffic demands. There are several ways of going about WAN optimisation. A good start would be caching, or the process of storing data in a cache or temporary storage area. Prepopulated data, for example pictures and other files that are often requested by user’s browsers, are sent to a remote site, and that file is cached by a local device, which can then save the file and serve it up locally, saving on bandwidth usage.
Deduplication can eradicate network traffic associated with data backups by performing one, complete backup of a given file, sending only altered portions of these, instead of the full file each time. Compression is another useful technique. It employs an array of algorithms and techniques to lower the size of the data being sent across the network, eliminating any portions of the files that are not strictly necessary, again lowering the amount of traffic.
• Broadband bonding
Broadband circuits are usually limited in terms of their size and reliability, which also limits the effectiveness of using broadband connections. Broadband bonding helps to aggregate several broadband and Internet connections into one, unified connection that gives scalability and improved fault tolerance.
• Traffic management
Too many organisations do not manage their network traffic efficiently. Resources are wasted, and this in turn lowers the effectiveness of the network. Disruptive technologies such as cloud applications and unified communications only exacerbate the problem, placing a greater strain on the network and adding extra complexity. WAN traffic management makes use of techniques like traffic monitoring and shaping to pinpoint the traffic that is most crucial, thus maximising the efficacy of the network.
• Control of applications
A vast number of applications and application protocols exist within each organisation, and all of these need to be controlled and monitored. Not all applications are equal in terms of their importance to the business – some are not designed with WAN deployment in mind, and can cause bottlenecks in the network. However, there are vendors that provide application acceleration appliances that optimise only specific types of traffic, by offloading specific servers.
One final point: it is vital that a good and comprehensive network optimisation is able to selectively prioritise traffic, particularly in cases where WAN links are used a lot, and are operating above their rated capacity.
Du Plessis will delve deep into each of the trends changing our workplaces today and in the future in a series of articles. Look out for The Communications (r)evolution Part 5 next month.