Can your network cope with the data deluge?

Enterprise networks will struggle to cope with the deluge of data that is coming their way.

We are in the zettabyte era of data networks.  According to a report by Cisco, annual IP traffic will reach 2.0 zettabytes in 2019, treble the volume of 2014. In case you are struggling to comprehend a zettabyte, it's 1 million petabytes. Or 1 trillion gigabytes.

So what is creating all of this traffic?

One of the main reasons is our rapacious appetite for communicating. Every minute around 200 million emails are sent and 2.5 million nuggets of content are shared by Facebook users.

And it’s not just humans generating all this noise. One of Virgin Atlantic’s new fleet of ‘highly connected’ planes, for example, is expected to create about half a terabyte of data per flight and this will need to be uploaded to the cloud.

If you also consider the growth in software-as-a-service, streaming video, big data and collaborative working, it is not surprising that business IP traffic will double between 2014 to 2019. Video is one of the biggest factors in this growth in both consumer and business networks. According to the Cisco report, business IP video traffic will make up 63% of all business IP traffic in 2019, up from 36% in 2014.

Other bandwidth-intensive applications include vertical industry software that is essential for enterprises to innovate and retain a competitive edge.  Take for example, computer-aided design (CAD) in the automotive sector, where today’s automotive engineers and designers use CAD to draw their designs, collaborate with other experts, and simulate actual performance. CAD files can be huge, but even they pale in comparison to the gigabytes of data contained in oil field exploration files.

Corporate networks also transport a lot of recreational internet traffic. A survey carried out by Palo Alto Networks estimates that employees are taking up a total of 28% of total network bandwidth visiting social sites. 

Managing expectations

All of these trends are contributing to the data deluge and are putting existing networks under strain. The complexity of deploying and managing the day-to-day running of enterprise networks is becoming a major headache for IT managers. The challenge is sustainably managing this traffic growth in a period where IT budgets are not growing.

There are conflicting pressures here: end-users want faster connections and the latest applications to improve productivity while CIOs and CFOs are looking for a more customer-centric approach, but still calling for a cut in the network OPEX, improved margins and reduced risk of security breaches. IT departments need to prioritize according to business needs to control costs and ensure user satisfaction. 

The big challenge for IT departments is in providing the flexibility and elasticity to avoid outages, buffering and slow response times, whilst supporting a myriad of new applications. Networks need to be planned with peak-time usage in mind. For example, a video conference consumes more bandwidth than twenty people on Salesforce simultaneously, according to Sean Armstrong, Director of Product Management at AppNet.

And the importance of Internet traffic should not be underestimated, because so many of the resources that are used – e.g. Salesforce – will be outside of the enterprise network. IT managers are under increasing pressure to ensure high levels of service and fewer disruptions for Internet traffic, whilst paying greater attention to access and security.

Leading the pack

To stay ahead of the competition, businesses need to innovate and transform using digital tools. The IT department needs to provide the tools that support their employee’s innovation, and the network to run them on. But many enterprises are treading water to simply keep their networks going. According to research by Zeus Kerravala, founder of ZK Researchmore and more resources are being eaten up just to maintain the status quo. ZK Research indicates that a massive 83% of IT budgets are used to simply “keep the lights on,” up from 74% five years ago. With technology trends such as consumerization and the Internet of Things (IoT) about to explode, the problem, he said, will only become exacerbated.

Unless enterprises take action, the implications of all this will include an increase in latency and overall IT costs, plus a decrease in security and reliability, which can all have a detrimental effect on an enterprise’s ability to innovate and stay agile enough to grasp new business opportunities.

Find out how our business-grade Internet service can help you cope with the data deluge.

Jan Howells

Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites, including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.