Despite modest economic growth, 2010 marks a year of pent-up demand for WAN bandwidth, although IT professionals seem leery of predicting wholesale increases. In the latest Nemertes 2010/11 Communications and Computing benchmark based on data gathered from over 200 participating organizations, Nemertes notes Twenty-eight percent of organizations expect bandwidth growth in 2010. And IT leaders tell us they expect significant growth: The average bandwidth increase for those who expect growth is 220%! The same percentages hold for 2011, with 28% of organizations anticipating triple-digit bandwidth growth—this time a whopping 550%!
What’s driving the demand for growth? Two factors, primarily. First is an increased concentration of users into branch offices, as companies look to reduce operating costs by closing smaller offices and consolidating staff(with a concomitant rise in the number of telecommuters as described in the recent Nemertes’ report, “The Distributed Organization.”)
As user density in branch offices increases, so do bandwidth requirements. Companies that are increasing bandwidth most dramatically in 2010 are those for whom the average size of a branch is increasing. This suggests that, for now, these increases are driven primarily not by what users are doing as much as by how many users are present.
UC applications are another factor driving bandwidth growth. As adoption of IP telephony, video conferencing, and web conferencing ramps up—current bandwidth configurations simply won’t cut it. Absent a proactive strategy to better manage or add bandwidth, IT architects run this risk of getting caught flat-footed by the sudden increase in bandwidth demands (we all know how many times new application deployments surprise WAN engineers who weren’t consulting in advance about possible network implications).
IT leaders express continued concern about the impact of video, particularly desktop video, in the branch. “The wild card is video. If there is demand for video, we’ll bring all but the smallest offices to 3 Mbit/s, and those at 3 could go to 4.5-6 Mbit/s,” says the IT manager of a midsize professional-services organization, who predicts no bandwidth increase for his company’s branches, but admits there’s a 50/50 chance that video will change his prediction. “It’s VOIP and video that drive the traffic,” agrees the director of infrastructure at a midsize retailer.
Fortunately a number of mitigation strategies exist. While there’s always the “throw bandwidth at the problem approach” more creative, and cost effective solutions involve deploying WAN optimization to better manage available bandwidth, or use local Internet off-load to take Internet-bound traffic off the WAN and avoid backhauling it to the data center. About 26.1% of branches on average are connected to both WAN and Internet (supporting direct branch-to-Internet access).
The bottom line: proactively address WAN bandwidth and performance concerns BEFORE you expand your UC roll-out, especially if video is in the mix.