Friday, June 20, 2008

What Applications Require Major Amounts Of Bandwidth For A Limited Time?

What would you identify as applications that significantly increase an enterprise's need for internet bandwidth for limited periods of time (i.e. - for a day, a week, a month, 3 months, etc.)?

Off the cuff some examples include videoconferencing, off site data backup, large CAD drawings, enterprise document management, synchronization of databases, new product release advertising campaigns, annual enrollment for employee benefits, seasonal media events like Final Four, oscars, super bowl etc.

Areas of the film production industry require large amounts of bandwidth for short periods of time during production and editing.

Diagnostic imaging for medical services companies also requires a lot of bandwidth in short increments. Due to goverment regulations, most companies aren't allowed to compress the data they transmit and store. When transmited and received, these images can consume very large amounts of bandwidth for short periods of time.

Some of these companies employ reserve DS3 bandwidth services that allow them to turn up a pipe whenever they need it. Others like this utilize "burstable" billing options on a larger pipe for cost savings (such as OC3 Bandwidth).

Really the list is quite diverse. The easiest way to think of this is in terms of 'objects'. What objects are likely to be delivered or transfered. In the case of media events, then you think to yourself .... "well how well is this event known"? In the case of the Super Bowl, its known by millions so there is a going to be high demand for the 'objects' being transfered .... and therefore large amounts of capacity will be needed to handle all of the simultaneous requests.

I like the idea of considering "objects" and demand. The obvious bandwidth hogs are video conferencing, voice, large file transfers or high transaction rate environments, software distribution, the need to have disaster recovery etc. The hard bit is understanding the variability of demand over time. For example I know of at least one European country's phone network being brought down by TV viewers using a freephone number to vote on a question ......... the organizers totally underestimated the capacity needed to handle the volume of calls. Cacheing, traffic shaping, bandwidth on demand, QoS, policy based routing, etc. .... each have strengths and weaknesses in relation to managing bandwidth requirements.

I guess that the rapid growth in user generated content and social networking is also going to be a big driver for network operators. There is the old rule of thumb that data rapidly grows to fill the network capacity available. Just look at the size of todays powerpoint presentations ...... filled with bitmap images etc.

I would also think about the type of bandwidth needed. There are many different types of networks that an organization needs to "feed and clothe".......

* High Quality, low latency, time critical Network (High QoS)-

Needed for Voice, Video, certain LAN-based transaction processing type applications etc. This tends to be a scarce and finite resource. It is expensive due to tarriffing options at Service Providers and is usually actively managed in an organisation.

This type of network resource is often burst driven - be it short bursts like conference call/broadcast calls or longer things like Month End processing or Data synchronisation/replication between sites.

* Regular Networks -

The typical WAN in and organisation carries lots of different types of traffic as discussed above. One major source of traffic that has not been identified is the distribution and management of desktop applications and systems.

The regular patching program used in many organisations gives a large amount of traffic point-to-multi-point. This includes Operating Software fixes, Anti-Virus/SPAM/Malware updates. I have frequently been asked to help companies optimise this issue in their network.

* Cheaper Low Quality Networks (Best effort) -

These are typical non-time-critical applications like web browsing. The user is expecting the page to load over time - and the odd slow response isn't too much of a problem. This tends to be a background traffic and includes things like e-mails etc. Large e-mails on long distribution lists (to multiple organisations) can be big sources of traffic - especially when marketing efforts revolve around video or sound clips.

In the end predicting and preparing for what may spike your bandwidth needs isn't that difficult. As long as you're prepared via some type of "burstable" capability your enterprise network shouldn't suffer. To help with acquiring extra bandwidth, or setting up "burstable" capability .... I strongly recommend you use the free services offered at Bandwidth Solutions

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