Improving end-user experience with the hybrid network

Global network traffic continues to grow at a staggering pace. According to the 2015 Cisco Visual Network (VNI) forecast, annual global IP traffic will pass the zettabyte (1000 exabytes) threshold in 2016, and the two zettabyte threshold in 2019. This general growth in network traffic is mirrored in businesses, with business IP traffic predicted to double between 2014 and 2019.

As more and more enterprises undergo digital transformation, the value of the network increases. Applications that enable that transformation, such as unified communications, video conferencing, CRM and CAD/CAM are accessed from corporate data centers or the cloud – which means they rely upon some form of connection. In addition, the Internet has come to dominate business networks, making up 73 percent of business IP traffic in 2014, and predicted to make up 83 percent by 2019.

However this explosion of network traffic hasn’t come without problems. “As enterprises digitize virtually every aspect of their business, demand for bandwidth is rising steeply,” explained Christian Pelle, Head of connectivity and cyber defense services for Europe at Orange Business. “This puts enterprise IT budgets under strain and challenges the capability of the infrastructure to deliver an acceptable level of performance for end users.”

For example, video is having a massive impact on business networks. According to the Cisco survey, Internet video will make up 65 percent of global business Internet traffic in 2019, up from 38 percent in 2014. This growth is a particular challenge for enterprises, because video and voice traffic are very sensitive to latency. Poor user experience in desktop video conferencing can damage uptake of the technology across the organization.

In fact, the impact of unresponsive applications is wide-ranging on businesses.  The majority of online shoppers will abandon an ecommerce page if it takes more than three seconds to load. Employees are equally sensitive to performance. According to research by IDG, business users says that poor-end user experience creates increased levels of frustration (50 percent), decreased speed and agility (50 percent), and trouble in meeting deadlines (45 percent). This can translate into low job satisfaction and missed business opportunities.

Key to digital transformation

Further, the success of digital transformation initiatives is ultimately dependent on end-user experience. Many enterprises are migrating to cloud applications like Office365 to increase collaboration and reduce IT costs. However, cloud applications can be affected by round trip delays, which vary on the distance the user is from the data center. If the application is not responsive, it will be very difficult to get employees to change their document management behaviors and break down existing silos.

Core vertical business applications also rely on the network for their success. Take the civil engineering sector, which allocates program management, detailed design work and structural integrity analysis to specialists at a number of different offices. This allows them to benefit from “follow-the-sun” workflows to get access to a larger talent pool and carry out some work in lower-cost regions. Building Information Management (BIM) applications help them collaborate on major infrastructure projects – and they  consume a lot of bandwidth.

Others include the globally dispersed R&D teams that are found in the pharmaceutical or semiconductor sectors. Or the requirement for “virtual deal rooms” in the merger and acquisition (M&A) process, where vast amount of financial data is disclosed in a sales process that is time critical, commercially confidential and highly regulated.

Managing bandwidth growth

Enterprises need to address the demand for more bandwidth while maintaining reliability, predictability and security within their existing budget. It isn’t just about providing more bandwidth, because requirements vary based on a variety of criteria, such as application chattiness, security, latency, location and time of day. Using a mix of transport channels in a global network enables enterprises to meet these varying needs.

“Connectivity, application performance and security are key,” added Pelle. “A hybrid network is the only way to deal with the challenge of managing steeply growing volumes of traffic, while meeting the rising performance challenges and expectations of the cloud era – without stretching IT budgets. This allows the IT department to continue supporting strategic business transformation programs and driving profitable growth.”

With the network carrying all this confidential data, security has to be a priority, particularly when traffic is being carried over the public Internet. According to a Peter Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution, “Ninety-seven percent of Fortune 500 companies have been hacked and likely the other 3 percent have too, they just don’t know it.”

The solution is to allow enterprises to dynamically segment application traffic onto different network links, depending on the latency, bandwidth, geographic reach, security and per-bit cost requirements for each user. This includes an enterprise’s secure and reliable private WAN, a new type of optimized “business class” Internet that reduces the number of network hops traffic need to take to and from a branch office and a secured Internet connection for general business browsing. All different types of network have a role to play is delivering the best end-user experience.  

Find out more about how the hybrid network can help improve end-user productivity in the blogs. Orange Business Service has also recently launched Business VPN Internet Accelerate that is specifically designed to improve the business internet and cloud experience.