Taking Back Control of Your Network Bandwidth

You can’t manage what you can’t see. So it’s not surprising that with corporate networks congested more and more by P2P, streaming media, and other “leisure” traffic, network admins are increasingly turning to specialized network management software packages and appliances to give them the information they need to take back control of their bandwidth.

Of course, if your network is uncongested, network logons are quick, and users find all their business applications are running at top speed, then you’re probably not too concerned about a handful of people using KazaA somewhere in your organization.

Sadly, though, this ideal state of affairs is rarely witnessed, except perhaps in administrators’ dreams. The truth is that most corporate networks carry far more network-clogging leisure traffic than they can cope with. That’s because leisure apps are often particularly aggressive bandwidth users.

The key concern here is that mission-critical applications get the bandwidth they need at all times. Beyond that, it’s also important that other applications that enable users to do productive work run at acceptable speeds.

When this doesn’t happen on a regular basis because of network congestion, the reflex reaction is often to throw more bandwidth at the problem, but it’s fairly obvious that increasing bandwidth in isolation is unlikely to be an effective solution. Doubling a 512 Kbps connection to 1 Mbps, for example, simply gives more capacity to bandwidth hungry apps, without guaranteeing that performance for mission-critical application users will be improved.

And increasing bandwidth is expensive — especially when you hit the 2 Mbps mark and find that any bandwidth increase will probably entail new physical cabling. A new data pipe costs a lot: how easy is it to justify a costly infrastructure upgrade when chances are high that you’ll find you’ve filled the new capacity — with more traffic you don’t really need — in a very short period of time?

The fact is that bandwidth upgrades by themselves are very unlikely to solve bandwidth problems in anything but the very, very short term. Most network managers clearly understand this — research from Cupertino, CA-based network management software vendor Packeteer shows that about 40 percent of businesses delay deploying new applications because they don’t believe their WANs will be able to cope.

Page 2: Reserving Bandwidth and Identifying Traffic Hogs