How to tackle corporate network issues during the Rugby World Cup

This September sees the Rugby World Cup come to England and Wales. Twenty countries, across two hemispheres, in five continents will battle it out for famous Webb Ellis Cup.

Like all major sporting events, the Rugby World Cup offers another challenge for corporate IT, in particular network managers, who will have to mitigate for high-bandwidth-sapping activity across multiple branch offices, at potentially unusual times.

Just as we have seen previously with the Olympic Games, Wimbledon and the FIFA World Cup, employees in modern workplaces expect to be able to stream video live and via on-demand catch-up services across multiple devices across the corporate network. So companies need to strike a balance between allowing employees the flexibility to follow matches and stream video, but at the same time ensure that streaming is not going to disrupt work. And beyond just recreational video streaming, more and more companies are hosting live global town-hall meetings, offering video training centres and creating video content for marketing and sales purposes. This calls for more network visibility to ensure bandwidth and network resources are used appropriately.

The network – particularly with advancements in corporate IT models, such as the rise of the hybrid cloud environments – is now more complex than ever before. A variety of applications, operating on multiple platforms, need intelligent and application-centric network paths to operate at the same time.

This volume of traffic can cause a bottleneck as the explosion in the variety and volume of applications we use consumes a lot of bandwidth – video, catch-up and live streaming apps are the major culprit during large sporting competitions. When heavy apps go across the network, they need to be prioritised in terms of bandwidth needs, but more importantly, their criticality to business operations. This requires application-aware network services.

Video content, such as company-wide videoconferences or high-definition rugby matches need to be in real-time for optimal end-user experience, so they are given priority on the network. The goal of application-aware networking is to reduce the delays on ‘time sensitive’ applications, resulting in increased productivity.

The increased volume of video will touch all parts of the IT infrastructure, as well as the network. All elements that store, produce and consume video will be impacted. From a networking perspective, the wide area network (WAN) will experience challenges due to cost and bandwidth constraints – IT departments need to manage the costs associated with the WAN, whilst simultaneously trying to cope with an explosion of demand. More importantly, having visibility and control of the network down to the end-user experience is essential in hybrid cloud environments. Better WAN and overall network operations support this end goal of delivering service level agreements (SLAs) that get business done.

Therefore having the technology in place to proactively detect, monitor and report on such traffic patterns is key. Equally important and beneficial would be to have the ability to control the bandwidth being used so that both business applications and staff morale are not adversely affected. Such technology could include Quality of Service (QoS) and video stream splitting.

In the true spirit of SD-WAN, businesses that have hybrid networking capabilities can ensure they divert their recreational traffic onto another network away from that used by business critical applications, creating an intelligent overlay that saves money, while improving application performance with ease.

Karl Campbell, Regional VP UK and SA, Octopus Group