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Today's iOS 7 downloads an unprecedented challenge for IT

Updating Apple's OS and apps, managing bandwidth, app glitches all on menu

By , Network World
September 18, 2013 09:02 AM ET

Network World - When iOS 7 becomes available today it will be an unprecedented challenge for enterprise IT groups: hundreds, or thousands, of iPhone and iPad users will be ready and oh-so-willing to download over the air the expected 130MB file at once.

As iOS matures, and more and more iPhones and iPads proliferate in the enterprise, IT groups are rethinking how to cope with what is now a vendor- and user-driven process for the dominant mobile platform.

The most pressing concern for some companies will be the expected surge in bandwidth demand once users are alerted to iOS 7 being available, expected at 1 p.m. EDT. A variety of vendors and users say they’re not expecting problems on the local networks, including the wireless LAN. But companies that lack a caching arrangement could find that their WAN connection clogs up and bogs down.

IOS 6 was a 130MB file and it’s expected that iOS 7 will be at least that size. In addition, at least some apps will have been updated for the new OS. According to data collected by Cisco, the average iOS app size is 23MB, almost as large as the average Windows application. Clearly that covers a very wide range of actual app file sizes. Cisco cites data from Nielsen showing that the average number of apps per iOS device is 41.

[ALSO: The best new features of iOS 7]

Multiply that by the number of iOS devices per user on the corporate network and you’re looking at a lot of data being shifted in a relatively small time frame. Cisco has calculated what it calls the “network tax” created by software updates. For the fourth generation iPad, and assuming 4GB of “business user traffic” per month, Cisco estimates that the iPad network tax is nearly 638MB per month, or 16 percent of the monthly total. Clearly that’s an average, not a hard and fast number every month: the OS updates are once or twice per year. App updates are more frequent, on average accounting for 8 percent of the “tax.” The other contributors are iCloud backup, and iCloud sync between Apple devices.

The impact of iOS 7 is likely to be greater this year because of increased penetration of the iPhone and iPad in the enterprise. Software vendor JAMF, for example, has about 225 employees, all of them with either a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. But each one also has an iPad, either full-size or mini, and almost all of them have iPhones. All told, 225 people account for about 750 devices under management, the majority of them iOS devices, according to Jason Wudi, JAMF’s chief cultural officer.

Caching is a way to minimize the tax on the enterprise WAN connection. Cisco’s Integrated Services Routers have modules for caching the iOS 7 download on a hard disk in response to the first user request for it, says Chris Spain, vice president of product management for Cisco’s wireless business unit. Every additional employee iOS 7 update is handled locally by the cache over the LAN and WLAN.

Apple iOS devices are not alone in inflating these bandwidth demands. Spain points out that the Google Chromebook laptops automatically check for a firmware update every time they boot up. For a school or university deploying Chromebooks, that amounts to hundreds or even thousands of megabytes.

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