IT managers losing control of the network

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IT managers losing control of the network

As much as 40 per cent of company bandwidth is being used for recreational or non business-critical applications, according to a recent survey by network optimisation firm Blue Coat Systems.

More worrying is the fact that half of those IT managers interviewed admitted that they are aware of only 60 per cent of the applications being run on their network.

Steve Shick, senior director for corporate communications at Blue Coat, warned that the previous approach of simply throwing more bandwidth at the problem is no longer viable for a number of reasons.

"The growing use of resource-heavy applications such as software-as-a-service and videoconferencing, combined with the current economic climate, means that businesses need to have a clearer insight into their network than ever before," he said.

Shick pointed out that, in some cases, adding more bandwidth will have little or no impact on the performance of some applications, as they are restricted more by latency than utilisation.

In these instances, the introduction of various acceleration technologies is the only measure that can have any meaningful impact.

The growth of Web 2.0 technologies has also made it increasingly difficult to differentiate between different types of traffic.

"At a basic level, a web-hosted application, a standard web page, a YouTube video and a peer-to-peer download all look very similar, making it very difficult for IT managers to track applications and their impact on the network, " Shick explained.

The study also highlighted growing concerns about malicious web-based attacks.

Many respondents said that this threat had roughly tripled during 2008, placing an even greater strain on the network and testing security systems to their limit.

Blue Coat believes that having a granular view into the network is the only way for network chiefs to effectively manage the growing deluge of traffic, by identifying the business-critical applications and the potentially harmful or illegal traffic, and accelerating, caching or blocking content as necessary.

"The network is increasingly core to the entire business - it's what connects everything together - but it is often sidelined," said Mike Hemes, regional sales director for Blue Coat in the UK, Ireland, Israel and South Africa.

"The nature of business applications is changing, with many now either partially or completely reliant on network connectivity to function."

The trend towards network-centric applications is likely to change how the IT department is expected to perform, as the focus shifts from connectivity to delivery.

"It will become less about pure numbers or service level agreements, and more about enabling a complete business process," added Shick.

"For too long network administrators, security managers and application experts have been at loggerheads trying to pull IT in different directions. With complete insight into the network, these previously siloed areas can be brought together to enhance business productivity."

Blue Coat's predictions are echoed by Cisco's vice president of emerging technology, David Hsieh, who recently highlighted the growing need for networks to evolve and become smarter to cope with the growing levels of traffic.

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