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WAN Governance and the Challenges of UC


By David White

Unified communications (UC) offers huge opportunities for the enterprise as a result of its ability to integrate real-time communication services such as instant messaging, presence information, telephony, video conferencing, data sharing, call control and speech recognition with non-real-time communication services such as unified messaging.

The benefits of UC include improved productivity, easier collaboration, better customer satisfaction and, ultimately, higher profits through more efficient teamwork and competitive advantage.

But before enterprises can realize the benefits of UC, they must address three distinct challenges and WAN governance is the key to unlocking this potential.

Challenge 1: UC flows take various forms. A single UC user could generate many different flows, including data flows (presence, instant messaging, screen sharing, workflows, enterprise social media, business process integration, etc.), voice flows (one-to-one, conference) and video flows (single point or multipoint). And each of these flows has its own requirement in terms of resources and quality. In order to deliver the performance users expect, it is necessary to understand and match the specific characteristics of each application across the network.

Challenge 2: UC flows are resource greedy. While todays enterprises typically provide an average network resource of 50-100KBps/user, a single voice channel alone could use up to 90KBps, while a video channel could use from 250KBps up to 2MBps (without speaking of telepresence). This results in UC applications impacting the performance of business traffic during peaks of high demand a situation that requires a dynamic control system that protects business applications, anytime.

Challenge 3: UC traffic is very distributed. Desktop-to-desktop video communication is encouraged as part of UC, and while users realize improved comfort and productivity, it places an enormous strain on interbranch WAN links.  This results from complex traffic situations that include UC controllers located on-premises or hosted in the cloud, voice and video conference flows concentrated on a central bridge, and external communications routed through a media gateway connected to the public network. The traditional static classes of services (CoS) are not able to match this complexity and not controlling these dynamic and complex situations will put all business applications at risk.

A growing number of enterprises are realizing that WAN Governance the alignment of the WAN to the enterprise’s business is the key to addressing these challenges by enabling unified communications while guaranteeing the performance of the pre-existing business applications that share the network.

The goal of WAN Governance is to provide global visibility, control and optimization of application performance guaranteeing performance for any network architecture and ensuring the agility and flexibility an enterprise requires including those embracing unified communications.

WAN Governance addresses the challenges of UC by:

  • Providing IT departments with visibility so the impact of UC flows can be fully understood by the IT service desk and communicated to business leaders with simple metrics, comprehensive KPIs and quality scores. This enables CIOs, application directors and IT directors to better understand how UC performs across the corporate network.
  •  Enabling control so that real-time flows inside unified communications (like voice) are prioritized above less critical applications (like file transfers). WAN Governance could also allow IT departments to prevent dynamic video codecs to expand beyond reasonable levels, ensuring that other critical applications such as SAP or transactional systems still function to the required SLA anytime.
  • Allowing for intelligent routing across the appropriate network. For example, when a hybrid Internet + MPLS network is deployed, WAN Governance can ensure user experience and provide access to the large bandwidth unified communications requires at a reasonable cost.

Here is an example of the cost effectiveness of a WAN Governance system when faced with the challenges presented by unified communications.

Lets imagine a professional services company with 5,000 employees decides to deploy UC and sets an IT budget of $975/user/month, of which $320 is allocated to applications.

A full-featured WAN Governance system will typically have a TCO of $3/user/month (including central devices, management OPEX and unforeseen project incidents), and with this investment, businesses would be able to:

  • Guarantee the quality of the UC applications (which could otherwise require an investment of $36/user/month)
  • Protect the performance of the other business-critical applications (ERP, CRM, file sharing, cloud apps, Internet, etc.) against resource intensive UC (typically an average investment of $320/user/month)
  • Provide automatic incident prevention, better help desk productivity and IT governance (which could result in savings of an average of $15/user/month)
  • Optionally deploy hybrid networks for accessing large resources at low cost (e.g, desktop video), dividing the cost of incremental MBps by three to five.

As one can see, not deploying WAN Governance would jeopardize not only the success of UC deployment but also the performance of the other business applications. Unsatisfied users and business managers will complain, lowering UC adoption and forcing IT to upgrade the WAN at a high cost without being sure of the impact.

By guaranteeing the success of UC deployments, WAN Governance leverages a strategic enterprise investment one that will in turn improve efficiency and productivity through better collaboration.

David White is president of North American operations and senior vice president of global business development for Ipanema Technologies. A seasoned senior executive with more than 25 years’ experience in sales, marketing and business development, he has a strong background in WAN optimization and has worked extensively in both enterprise and service provider markets.


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