The CIO is lurking in your office when you return from the network operations center and immediately confronts you about the remote sales office in Tucson. They are complaining about the responsiveness of the Point of Sale (POS) system or a number of other systems housed at the corporate data center. In the same breath the CIO complains about the huge invoice you just approved for data communication services this month.
Sure it does, especially if you have ever managed a Wide Area Network (WAN) environment. This same story unfolds time and time again. And the problem persists regardless of how much bandwidth you throw at it. My friends, what you have is a massive traffic jam similar to what one would experience on the Long Island Expressway during the rush hour.
Isolating the Root Cause
Once you have validated the integrity of the WAN, you must identify who and what is consuming the bandwidth. Don’t take this lightly; you will probably be surprised with what you find. Stop and consider how remote offices are using the network. Sure there is the POS system your CIO was griping about earlier, but how about other applications? Accounts payable and receivables, inventory control, self-service human resource systems, online training systems and videos… the list goes on.
It also pays to spend some time with the remote users who are experiencing latency on the network.
Yikes! A new training application with streaming video! Yes your colleagues down the hall in application programming generally forget to notify you about the new apps that they may be putting on the network, especially if they use existing server platforms.
You also can bet your boots the programming team has absolutely no clue that the application they have just developed is a bandwidth hog, nor do they care. It goes without saying that in their scientific opinion, latency is a network problem.
Last but not least, dispatch your best data communications engineer armed with a network analyzer such as a Sniffer to a couple of your remote offices with instructions not to return until he or she can tell you exactly what type of traffic is on the network at these locations. Don’t be shocked to find the office secretary is spending her day on the Internet listening to her favorite radio station in the UK and the parts manager spending the afternoon downloading MP3 files.
Now that you have identified these applications, all of which are contending for available bandwidth, you have a better understanding of the dilemma you are in. You may come to realize that personal, non-business or low priority business related traffic is congesting the network and slowing down the high-priority systems.
Sounds a lot like gridlock in the middle of Manhattan when the traffic lights ceased to function. You are in dire need of a traffic cop that has the ability to see who is using the bandwidth and what they are using it for so you can size the network appropriately. Furthermore, you need the ability to prioritize the traffic so that essential traffic is responsive, while Sally’s web surfing takes a back seat.