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Wimbledon 2015: Game, set, crash

Wimbledon offers tennis fans across the world one of the biggest sporting events of the year, and like the World Cup last year and London 2012 before that, this is likely to be something employees stream on their devices in the office.

Other workplaces might even organise social events where the matches are watched in the office.

I heard a story recently from an IT Director suffering from some serious application/network performance problems – it was discovered that many of the company’s staff in certain remote offices were watching the World Cup on their PCs!

Streamed live, these massive sporting events consume a lot of bandwidth and put high amounts of pressure on the network. Companies will want to ensure the streaming is not going to disrupt work, but also that their employees can enjoy the matches. This calls for more network visibility down to the end-user experience.

The network, particularly with advancements in corporate IT models, such as the rise of the hybrid cloud environments, means it is now more complex than ever before – with a variety of applications, operating on a variety of platforms, and needing a variety of 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 apps such as BBC iPlayer will be a major culprit for this during Wimbledon. 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. Video content, such as company-wide videoconferences or high-definition tennis matches need to be in real-time for optimal end-user experience, so they are given priority on the network. The goal of application-centric networking is to reduce the delays on ‘time sensitive’ applications, resulting in increased productivity.

Video and 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.

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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.

Without such measures in place, leaving the network at the mercy of tennis fans this summer will leave IT departments at their breaking point.

Karl Campbell is Regional VP UK and South Africa at Riverbed Technology.