Specifically, we spoke with XO Communications’ Senior Unix Administrator John Grady. Here are a few key take-aways from our conversation—first on the current situation and, later, on the future of bandwidth demand and probable solutions …
What’s currently driving bandwidth demand?
Enterprises are increasingly using the public cloud for storage as well as to run and support applications due its simplicity and the compelling economics of using its services. The need for network bandwidth grows in line with public usage growth. XO Communications’ response to this demand, as one example, is to enable its customers to connect—using its on-demand bandwidth solution—at lower speeds but “burst” as their cloud connectivity demands warrant.
More enterprises are utilizing videos for conference meetings and more. What’s more, video usage isn’t limited to the internal enterprise but has expanded to B2B employees for video chat on their mobile devices, adding even more bandwidth demand to the mix. The increase in video consumption is a key driver of bandwidth demand for the enterprise; it isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon, as applications like Skype become more robust, which leads us to the next point …
Applications are the largest driver of bandwidth demand because more enterprises are placing them within the public cloud. As such, more users need remote access to applications simultaneously. Furthermore, these applications—such as unified communications (UC)—are becoming more sophisticated and employing more multimedia data and content. Simply put, the need for remote access as well as adequate application performance puts a huge strain on the network. For example, UC features are very sensitive to latency and jitter, metrics that reflect the performance of the network, and are, therefore, impacted by a traffic-laden network. That is, a busy network will negatively affect the quality of a particular UC service.
These are all drivers of current bandwidth demand. We continued our conversation with Grady to get his take on the future of bandwidth demand and his predictions for solutions likely to emerge in upcoming years.
What does bandwidth demand, and its potential solutions, look like in the future?
Enterprises will increasingly move toward a software-defined network (SDN) environment to offset the growing demand for bandwidth. Indeed, the demand will likely not taper off in the future, as current trends include more sophisticated applications and greater video consumption. Moving to an SDN environment will help enterprises handle increased bandwidth demand; however, it won’t completely eradicate the problem. With that said, there will undoubtedly be an inflection point as to how networks are managed in the future. It’s likely we’ll see more SDN, network functions virtualization (NFV) and Internet-based wide-area networks (WAN), which can all help enterprises manage Internet traffic in a smarter way.
SDN will take a while to mature as a bandwidth demand solution as it is still in its nascent stage. In fact, many of the large carriers—AT&T, for instance—are just dipping a toe into the SDN pool right now. There is much work and testing that must take place before SDN becomes a viable solution for all enterprises. For instance, XO Communications is working to develop SDN solutions on a smaller scale but, until then, its bandwidth-on-demand solution will be the best solution for managing the networking demands of its customers.
Partners will need to focus on applications moving forward to more appropriately address the needs of their customers. After all, applications are the largest driver of bandwidth demand currently and will continue to be in the future as users leverage them remotely from the public cloud more frequently and as they become more dynamic. As time progresses, partners must be prepared to pair their customers’ evolving and maturing needs with changing and developing technologies, such as on-demand bandwidth solutions or SDN. As well, partners must focus on customizing applications for customers’ individual uses to help them better optimize their networks. From a UC perspective, this might mean enlightening customers on better ways to use their applications. Perhaps they don’t need all the bells and whistles that UC has to offer, and you can help them preserve bandwidth by customizing their applications for their individual needs.
It doesn’t look like enterprises’ appetite for bandwidth will subside anytime soon, but thanks to our innovative vendors, like XO Communications, partners can leverage both expert insights and solutions to help customers optimally manage their applications and networks.