Music, video downloading gets past network managers

ATLANTA — Bandwidth management should become the new mantra for enterprises struggling with rising costs of network operations, industry insiders say.

Instead of throwing more broadband and money at networks with a spotty performance track record, enterprises should invest in network management

solutions, vendors told a Networld + Interop and Comdex audience Wednesday morning.

Representatives of Packeteer Inc., Centricity Software and NetVMG told the panel discussion attendees that new solutions can help make sense of network activity, allow critical applications to get priority access, find the most efficient Internet routes and, most importantly, figure out what’s eating up bandwidth in the first place.

Most enterprises struggling with the amount of broadband their network users gobble up don’t even know what applications they have running, says Cupertino, Calif. based Packeteer vice-president of worldwide marketing Todd Krautkremer. Most enterprises who come to Packeteer for help think that music and video downloading doesn’t happen on their networks, he said.

“”When we show them that they have Napster and streaming running on their network they’re shocked,”” he said. “”Most of the time they’ll say, ‘We thought we stopped that at our firewall.'””

Regular systematic analysis of network use patterns is needed to figure out how the network is being used, Krautkremer said. Occasional spot checks can miss important clues to what’s affecting performance quality.

“”Really obvious things can get past people. For example, analyzing the network for a client during the (soccer) World Cup, we found that when certain games were on, the use patterns would go through the roof. That should tell you something,”” he said.

The problem of under-performance is also often caused by aggressive non-business related applications that ferociously go after the available bandwidth, Krautkremer says.

Intelligent network management software, which can distinguish between critical and non-business related applications, can create a priority ladder and ensure that important applications get to the front of the line, said Lake Oswego, Oregon-based Centricity

Software CEO Lynn Nye.

“”What solutions like ours do is reduce the transfer speed of non-critical information so that sensitive data can be transmitted faster,”” he said.

Those solutions hand the control of the network back to the IT department, where it belongs, Nye says.

Getting the most out of network resources is even trickier outside of the confines of the intranet, said Allwyn Sequeira, CTO of San Jose, California-based NetVMG. Enterprise business operations are increasingly dependant on the Internet, but there they lack the control they used to have on their private networks.

“”Because of that we’ve seen some enterprises try to avoid doing business on the Internet all together,”” he said. “”but that’s not generally what’s going to happen.””

Inconsistent Internet performance is making many companies consider the use of multiple ISPs or multi-homing, Sequeira says. But “”multi-homing”” can get expensive and, although it avoids downtime by providing redundancy, it does not address congestion-related problems that occur in the “”middle-mile”” backbone networks which link the first mile of Internet to the last, he says.

The problem is that to route Internet traffic multi-homed enterprises must rely on the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), which is a limited capability protocol and cannot seek cost efficient routes, Sequeira said.

“”BGP will not redirect you in a brown-out, for example.It won’t seek a different route unless the path is completely blocked. Intelligent route control products can target brown outs and find the most efficient route for data,”” he said.

Although shrinking IT budgets are making managers more aware of the need for bandwidth management, Nye said, there are still a lot of industry insiders who don’t know where to turn.

“”These products are only now emerging,”” Sequeira said. “”We’ve started seeing deployments in the last quarter.””

But increased visibility and predictable network performance make bandwidth management solutions a very attractive cost-controlling tool, which is precisely what the industry is looking for, Sequeira said.

Networld + Interop wraps up Thursday.

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