Solving the network traffic problem

TORONTO — The bureaucrats at Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) just love their e-mail, and this has federal IT managers scrambling.

A little over a year ago, when the “love bug” virus — which was contained in an attachment to an e-mail with the subject line “I love you” — hit the PWGSC, users temporarily lost e-mail access and many had trouble doing their jobs, said Barry Sims manager of network planning for PWGSC’s Government Telecommunications and Informatics Services (GTIS) unit.

“Some people had to learn how to use a fax machine,” he said. PWGSC includes the federal government’s real estate and purchasing arms.

Sims said e-mail is so important to PWGSC’s users that he is trying to figure out how to set up a network that will place a higher priority on e-mail traffic than other types of traffic.

Sims attended an information session on traffic management Thursday at Network + Interop Canada, which was held in conjunction with Comdex at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The session, called “Traffic Management Showdown,” was delivered by Brian Burba, vice-president of product marketing for Concord Communications Inc., a Marlboro, Mass.-based network management software company.

Burba said many large organizations with wide-area networks are using enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and other software in which the speed of transactions is important.

Although some network traffic can be delayed, users won’t tolerate delays in applications like ERP and real-time video, he added.

But adding more cables, switches and routers isn’t always the answer, Burba said, noting that quality of service (QoS) products can help IT managers figure out where the bottlenecks on the network are, and how to place a priority on mission-critical traffic.

Outside the enterprise, service providers can use QoS tools in order to set up service level agreements (SLAs), in which users pay a premium in order to get a guarantee on their service. But Burba warned that service providers should only offer SLAs on part of the network that they control. Otherwise, he said, one service provider may end up paying a penalty to a customer for a problem with another service provider’s network.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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