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THINK TANK: Bandwidth bottleneck: fact or fiction

THINK TANK: Bandwidth bottleneck: fact or fiction

A few weeks ago The Sydney Morning Herald delivered an unfavourable report on the state of the local ISP market. Australian ISPs, it said, were generally considered to be inefficient and unaccountable. Not to be outdone by its Fairfax brethren, Business Online countered a week later claiming the state of bandwidth and networks down under was nevertheless excellent. Even Bill Gates helped to mix the message telling us how poor our awareness of bandwidth and network readiness is.

But peeling off a few layers of media hype will dispose of quite a few bandwidth myths. For instance, does it really matter if we have a 2Mb link, 10Mb link or even a 155Mb ATM link if this connection is not fully utilised or, in the worst case, if it fails? Or what's the use of having a high bandwidth network, besides gaining access to what is essentially static content? Let us consider the facts and demystify the bandwidth issue once and for all.

Although an important issue, the ongoing bandwith debate is futile in an environment where most businesses don't have a grip on what bandwidth they are actually being provided nor a clue about how to optimise their existing network and manage their ISP links intelligently. The channel now has an opportunity to help businesses optimise their resources rather than leaving them at the mercy of those who would merely flog them larger pipes, more servers, bigger networks . . . more complexity, more problems.

IP traffic will continue to grow and failures will be considered unacceptable as networks, and specifically the Internet, become crucial to business. Everyone wants to better utilise their network resources. The alternative to the never-ending cycle of increasing bandwidth and resources is to make the existing network smarter so it can automatically respond to the requirement for services and the IP traffic flow.

New opportunities exist for resellers to go into client sites offering better solutions to network managers' problems. These solutions enable managers to enforce their own bandwidth management policies based on users, application and content.

ISPs, SSPs, ASPs, financial organisations, e-commerce B2B and B2C businesses now demand 100 per cent network availability - and most CEOs think this is an easy task. But at the end of the day it's up to the networking guys in the back room to design, build and manage this highly available, responsive and secure system. In an ill-informed business environment, full of conflicting messages, guaranteeing 100 per cent availability puts the VAR and systems integrator on edge, especially now that networks have become mission critical. Not only is the bandwidth critical, but so are the application servers, firewalls, VPNs and links.

There's a common perception that there's a lack of bandwidth in this country and that ISPs are largely unaccountable for failures. But the truth is people are relying more heavily on the Internet. New value-added opportunities exist for the channel to assist network managers by offering solutions that leverage existing networks by making them more dynamic and flexible. This will result in networks that have improved certainty in the delivery of IP traffic and network availability. Once we are able to optimise the resources we already have, the argument as to whether our bandwidth infrastructure is adequate will become less important. Tony Burke is the general manager of intelligent traffic management company Radware Australia


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