The continuing adoption of unified communications in the enterprise is enhancing business performance in numerous ways, with UC's benefits ranging from refined collaboration to improved customer satisfaction. These benefits aren't free of cost or without risk for the network, however. Real-time applications, with their need for minimal latency and high bandwidth (at least for video), can stress an enterprise network to the point of crashing.
In terms of the fix, half the battle is finding the source of network stress; the other half is taking action to prevent it in the first place.
UC's benefits aren't free of cost or without risk for the network.
Tim Smith, Nemertes Research
Data centers require larger server farms, as software -- decoupled from hardware -- increasingly provides UC and other real-time applications. Of course, IP connectivity is required from the servers to an ever-increasing variety of devices. Providing adequate connectivity is even more challenging when users are geographically distributed rather than close to the data center. The resulting bandwidth demands can wreak havoc on wired and wireless LANS, as well as on the WAN. IT professionals can avoid stressing the network by integrating network and server planning tools, as well as by using network simulation tools to predict traffic loads.
Finding the sources of network stress
Network managers can best address these top three network stressors, identified by recent Nemertes benchmark research, by establishing policies for their use, anticipating their growth and using network simulation tools to avoid their negative effects.
- Mobile devices. The percentage of employees using only wireless connectivity is expected to nearly double from 2013 to 2015, which places additional demands on wireless capacity.
- Security requirements. As organizations deliver UC capabilities to an increasingly distributed and mobile workforce, security policy may dictate adding encryption to protect confidential information. This again places stress on server resources, as well as on bandwidth.
- Real-time apps in the enterprise. Employees increasingly use audio, Web and video conferencing to collaborate with remote peers, partners or customers. Almost 50% of enterprises are integrating room, desktop and mobile video to enhance collaboration. UC conferencing capabilities already provide enough stress on the network, but factor in technologies like the growth of WebRTC, which will dramatically increase demands on the network through simple browser interfaces, and network traffic will quickly get out of control.
How to eliminate network stress for efficient UC use
After you assess what is overburdening your network, it's time to take proactive steps so UC doesn't crash your network.
More network simulation resources
3 necessary network changes to support UC deployment
Best practices for shoring up WAN resiliency
How to set up network simulators to test application performance
Compression tools are powerful stress relievers. G.729 (code excited linear predictive coding, or CELP) is a well-proven voice compression technique, supported by a wide variety of equipment. For the video side, the emerging H.264 Scalable Video Coding, or SVC, standard is worth considering as video collaboration gains momentum.
What should you do?
- Understand where stress is likely to come from in your network. Depending on your enterprise's needs, it could be from increased mobility, collaboration, video or other applications.
- Assess how network stress will affect your data center, wired and wireless network resources, security policy, and other areas of IT infrastructure.
- Identify and adopt voice/video compression and network simulation tools that can help identify and relieve stress.
- Add stress-reduction assessments to your network planning initiatives.
This was first published in August 2013