Is Enterprise IT Here to Provide Great Internet Access?


The natives in the field sites at work are restless. The complaints about the "network is slow" have been building recently. One manager at a sales office sent an e-mail with a one-liner I'll have to use again someday: "IT is tripping over quarters to pick up dimes". Ha! Good one. The chief complaint is network performance; particularly Internet performance. We don't put a lot of WAN bandwidth into our field sites, but it's not bad. I have traveled to some sites and the network performance is fine when I'm there. Most sites have two 3 Mbps circuits from our MPLS carrier. They route over the MPLS IP VPN to hub sites for Internet access. Since we are using normal packet switching, each TCP session flows over a single link (no per-packet load balancing) and, thus, is limited to 3 Mbps. So, sometimes, there isn't enough bandwidth for Internet traffic, because it's been sucked up by other Internet downloads, PC backups, or something else higher in the QoS model. We do have a very good QoS model. We put traffic in five queues and differentiate with assured forwarding drop probability inside each queue. It breaks down to:

  • VoIP
  • Mission Critical Applications, Call Signaling, Network Management
  • Video
  • Corporate Data
  • Internet, Backups, UDP (best effort queue)

However, as you can see, Internet, appropriately, is at the bottom. Well, someone starts backing up their PC or downloading something from an internal site (which falls in the Corporate Data queue) and Internet gets stepped on. Sorry. To the users, it's "the network is slow". We do capacity management reports to show them VoIP and mission critical applications are working fine, but you can guess how well that goes over. Yeah, about as well as explaining to them they don't need a Gig port at their desk. We just do not have the budget to buy enough bandwidth for every site so the Internet runs smoothly. Plus, I have argued adding more bandwidth at field sites simply moves the bottleneck to the hub sites. Yes, we could buy more bandwidth there on the MPLS links and Internet circuits, but we are not in the telecom business. That's breaking the bank. But that takes us back to the question - is enterprise IT supposed to provide great Internet access? At this point, I'm still a "no" on the question, but the pressure is growing. Users are arguing Internet is a "critical business application", but that's a big stretch still. The more important question might be - how can we convince you the network is working fine so you'll stop complaining? (Ok, maybe I won't ask that question.) ;-)

More >From the Field blog entries:

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