• United States

The real traffic mgmt. challenge

Apr 19, 20043 mins

In the words of baseball legend Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” For years we’ve struggled with the organizational side of convergence for voice and data. We’ve also struggled with the LAN folks vs. the WAN folks. Now we have another area of networking where the technological innovation has advanced beyond most companies’ organizational charts. This time the issue is integrating the applications people with the network people when considering Layer 4 to Layer 7 traffic management.

Layer 4 to Layer 7 traffic management is quickly coming to the forefront as a major issue for most companies over the next couple of years. The idea is great: Rather than simply providing a network consisting of Layer 1 bit pipes or using slightly more intelligent packet-based architectures, the network should be aware of the actual application content. Consequently, performance can be enhanced and network costs can be minimized.

In reality, the entire Layer 4 to Layer 7 traffic management area represents the convergence of multiple prior-generation point products into one product. In one of the more basic manifestations where only two network products are involved, combining compression and traffic shaping based on IP parameters enhances throughput, compared with applying compression and traffic shaping separately.

At the same time, the next generation of Layer 4 to Layer 7 products, sometimes called application front-end processors, are reaching into the data center. These products combine historical application point solutions with network point solutions. Features such as server load balancing and Secure Sockets Layer acceleration are combined in one appliance with compression and traffic shaping. Other appliances provide insight into WAN performance by looking at performance characteristics from within the LAN.

The ultimate success of implementing these products depends primarily on the organizational convergence to support them. After all, Layer 4 to Layer 7 traffic management can be implemented only if the network people and applications people talk to one another.

In a recent survey at Webtorials, a site for planners of next-generation networks, we asked more than 400 respondents worldwide to indicate the level of convergence between the personnel responsible for applications and those responsible for the network infrastructure within their organizations. Less than one-third of the respondents indicated that the network folks and applications folks were part of one integrated organization. Only one-fourth indicated that they had significant cross-training, even though they were in functionally separate organizations. Just less than one-third of the respondents indicated they had functionally separate organizations, with the convergence occurring only at the CIO level. And a significant percentage – 12% – had totally separate organizations.

The benefits of Layer 4 to Layer 7 applications management are tremendous. But to take full advantage of these capabilities, make sure your organization is converging along with the technology.