Advances in communication have occurred so rapidly that we assume we can get any information we need at any time -- from viewing satellite pictures of our own home to accessing the sales automation tool from the office -- while we’re at home or on the beach. Meanwhile these advances have complicated things for today’s businesses, especially multi-location enterprises, as information silos and access requirements continue to grow.
In fact, enterprises now find that the myriad types of information they wish to communicate and the numbers of enterprise locations that must be connected exceed the performance capabilities of the typical corporate network installed just a few short years ago.
Today’s Internet has become immensely powerful and provides enterprises with unprecedented connectivity. However formidable, the power and resources of the Internet are causing enterprise on-ramps to be crushed by the burgeoning demand they have spawned.
Since corporate connections to the Internet usually treat all traffic as one big data stream, mission-critical applications stand in line for available bandwidth with unimportant applications. How often have you heard the comment, “Boy, the network sure is slow today,” as co-workers lament their participation in the World Wide Wait?
Unpredictable network performance is a killer for real-time applications like voice and video, but can also render other important business applications all but unuseable. Simply put, this is not just about bandwidth; different types of applications require different network characteristics, and successfully integrating them all requires at least a modest understanding of the needs of each.
Multi-location enterprises are especially susceptible to this dilemma. They often use their Internet connection to support proprietary business applications that ride inside secure “tunnels” from one location to another. However, without a way to segregate those different applications -- both in terms of the “type” of information being sent and its relative “importance” to the enterprise -- the exiting packets hit the corporate network connection with all the comportment of a Hollywood cattle call. The same thing happens on the receiving end, for, as we all know, the Internet does not discriminate!
Attempts to solve this problem usually start with an all-too-familiar approach of adding MORE POWER (bandwidth) -- a dubious solution that dramatically increases cost and complexity, while serving only to temporarily alleviate the symptoms rather than curing the root cause. Now a widely available product, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), is the mantra of enterprises “in the know,” but it comes with its own set of complexities and security risks. It offers great job security for the resident technologist, though, if you can get it.
As with most things, complex systems are far more interesting, but usually far less effective in solving problems. In this case, a simple solution would involve carriers offering a way for customers to tell the carrier how to treat different information as they prepare to accept these multiple information streams on a single connection. That will represent a much-needed leap forward in acknowledging and addressing the evolving needs of enterprise communications. As a famous technologist once observed “We have the technology…”
— David Malfara, President and CEO, Remi Communications