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More about those ‘desktop TVs’

Apr 24, 20064 mins

More about those ‘desktop TVs’

Last week we opened a discussion about the ongoing proliferation of TV-like viewing opportunities – college basketball games, sitcoms, “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost,” the list goes on – being dangled in front of every office worker with a PC and a broadband connection. I asked the recipients of my e-mail list – The Buzzblog Brigade – how they felt about this trend . . . and predictably most everyone who weighed in is none too pleased.

Since then, I’ve heard from a couple of other Brigade members whose viewpoints – one philosophical, one technical – deserve airing.

Network consultant Jim Albright, while not exactly dancing on his desktop over the PC/TV evolution, sees less cause for alarm than do many of his fellow IT professionals. Here’s what Albright has to say: “I’ve always felt that Internet access-blocking techniques should be utilized for protection only,” he writes. “Obviously, it’s critical to prevent viruses, spyware and spam, from finding their way onto your network.

“In terms of productivity and time wasters, though, I think that those who want to waste time will find a way to do it. Before Internet access there were personal phone calls, hanging out at the water cooler and excessive smoke breaks. I’ve always felt ‘We’re all adults here’ and that if you hire the right people you won’t have to worry about these issues. As long as an individual’s responsibilities are being met, I see no harm in a quick personal interruption to the day, as long as it does not become abusive.

“Obviously, watching an entire episode of ‘Lost’ is an abuse, but these abuses will show themselves through lost productivity and should be addressed on an individual basis. Blocking Internet access globally is a punishing-the-class approach and I don’t think that employees should be treated like they are in elementary school.”

In theory – and in general – I agree with Albright. However, we don’t live in theory or in general. I hold no responsibility for managing a network, nor do I have to concern myself, professionally speaking, with legal matters or regulatory issues that might arise from unfettered Internet use.

In other words, any fallout from all these new viewing options ain’t my problem. So it’s entirely possible that the world Albright and I would prefer to work in simply doesn’t have much of a future – and the two of us are among those holdouts who are going to have to adjust – eventually.

The second Brigade member heard from is Joel Trammell, co-founder and CEO of NetQoS, a provider of software that monitors application performance across WANs. Based on our e-mail swaps over the years, I’d guess that Trammell is more of a CNN/C-SPAN guy than sitcom watcher, but he’s definitely seeing in this workplace TV trend a real risk for important business apps.

“The problem that is probably least well understood is how UDP-based traffic such as VoIP and real-time video can starve out TCP-based business applications,” he writes.

“Since TCP responds to packet loss by throttling back, its performance can be dramatically affected by the introduction of real-time protocols. People are beginning to see this happen as the amount of VoIP traffic grows dramatically. In most deployments VoIP is prioritized ahead of all other traffic and will perform reasonably well on a well-provisioned enterprise network. However, TCP-based business applications will experience tremendous variation in response times across a network. Users find wide variations in performance (one time it takes a second to load a page, the next time 10 seconds), particularly frustrating because they don’t know what to expect.

“Enterprise network managers need to instrument their infrastructures so that they can quantify these performance changes and understand the impact of new applications and traffic types as they appear.”

And it appears as if they will be appearing for the foreseeable future.

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