Network Middle East electronic edition 2nd May, 2005

Buying more bandwidth is often the first course of action for companies facing network congestion but for the smart network manager it is the last resort.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  April 30, 2005

Never mind the bandwidth|~||~||~|Buying more bandwidth is often the first course of action for companies facing network congestion but for the smart network manager it is the last resort. If the network is working perfectly and becomes congested, more bandwidth will open the pipes again and alleviate user frustration, but often a network is not running at optimum efficiency. In this case, throwing more bandwidth simply masks the true problem and before long, that problem will again rear its ugly head. The key skill for the network manager in this situation is being able to step back and analyse if there is something wrong with the network. There is a long list of potential points of inefficiency within the network and only once these have been eliminated as possible causes of drag should the enterprise consider further investment in bandwidth. Causes of inefficiencies can include duplex conflicts, out of date network interface card drivers and malfunctioning cables. These environmental components should be checked and if necessary remedied. If there is still network congestion, then a few other things can be tried before splashing the cash. It is also worth having a detailed look at the applications that use the network. Network managers often look at software on the network in a simplistic way, as it is not part of ‘their world’. This can manifest itself in viewing all applications as the same and seeing them as monolithic and unchanging. Thus when the network slows down, network managers rarely look at application efficiency. It is important for network managers to realise how much bandwidth each application should utilise and tally it with actual performance. This can allow the network manager to spot when an application is performing inefficiently. If database software is taking up a disproportionately high amount of bandwidth, it is the network manager’s problem, but he might not be the best person to solve the issue. The problem could be a result of badly written code, and this possibility should be assessed and eliminated. Once these issues have been addressed it can be assumed that the pipes are operating at maximum efficiency and that applications have been well written. If there is still a bandwidth shortage, there is still recourse without steep investment in bandwidth. In these cost conscious times, buying more bandwidth should be avoided until the last minute. While each alternative involves cost, none match up to the deep recurring costs that buying bandwidth brings. A clever alternative to investing in more bandwidth is using technology to optimise network and application performance. A host of companies in the Middle East have slashed their wide area network (WAN) bandwidth costs by investing in devices that compress traffic and reduce the repetitive pinging back and forth of messages that congests pipes. These technologies range from WAN compression software from companies such as Packeteer to application front end devices from Redline Networks, which offer web acceleration. Indeed the recent acquisition of Redline and WAN optimisation vendor Peribit by Juniper Networks for a combined US$469million is a validation of the importance of this approach. If after all of these measures, the network is still sluggish, then it is time to add more bandwidth. Now that the network manager has looked at these issues thoroughly, he can be sure that the bandwidth he buys will be used to the maximum value. It should also be easy to predict when more bandwidth will be needed. Simply put, more bandwidth should only be needed when users, applications or both increase and should the kind of nasty surprise, which results when network utilisation seems to take on a life on its own, should be a thing of the past. In reality, the only life wild and rampant network congestion comes as a result of network inefficiency and oversights from network managers.||**||

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