It came as no surprise to read that Apple application downloads hit 20 billion in 2012. The latest stats suggest that millions of Wi-Fi-enabled devices are pouring onto enterprise networks daily. ABI research states that over nine billion devices have been shipped worldwide in the last three years. Gartner predicts that the number of mobile application downloads will hit 310 million by 2016 and the average device is currently running 40 apps. To add to this, companies will also have to contend with 802.11ac smartphones, enabling Wi-Fi speeds of close to 1GB.
Faced with this massive increase in devices and applications connecting to their networks, many companies struggle to see how they can ensure their network infrastructure delivers the top-notch performance and quality that users expect from their personal equipment. At the same time, businesses need to enable the high standards of data and device security that is needed.
One thing is certain. Network traffic patterns and resource demands have been permanently altered and there's no turning back. It is important that companies have the control to proactively manage and identify which applications are running across the network, exclude those the IT security team believes to be dangerous and give priority secured bandwidth to business critical applications. This means that enterprises will be able to ensure the head of sales using Microsoft Lync to close a multi-million business deal is prioritised over the receptionist watching the latest music video on YouTube.
To help companies understand the pressure the network's going through, we've developed the 'top five' applications that place most pressure on your organisation's wireless network.
1. Video Conferencing (GoToMeeting, Google+ Hangout, WebEx, Lync, Skype)
The more users on the video conference and the larger the screen size of the mobile device, the more Wi-Fi bandwidth is required. For example, Skype requires 4Mbps download speed for 5-way conferencing, and WebEx bandwidth requirement more than doubles if a laptop is used vs. an iPad to join the conference.
2. Cloud Storage (Dropbox, Box, iCloud)
These are designed to capture as much Wi-Fi bandwidth as they can, unless default settings are modified by the end user - which rarely happens.
3. AirPlay, AirPrint
IT will typically have to manage these services to save the wireless network from collapse. On top of this, each screen mirror requires about ~1Mbps per iPad, iPhone, MacBook.
4. Audio & Video streaming (Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix)
These are the #1 or #2 bandwidth consumers in higher education, with another contender being video streaming. It is becoming more than common to have users stream audio at work. Each audio stream consumes ~500Kbps, and each video stream consumes 1-2Mbps over the air. This requires high levels of Wi-Fi bandwidth, especially if the mobile devices are not using top 802.11n rates/speeds.
5. Virtual desktop
For businesses that are built around the usage of the virtual desktop, tablets require 1.5Mbps of constant data rate for each device. In a high density environment, this presents a huge challenge for any Wi-Fi network.
The new normal
Ultimately, control over these applications now rests in the hands of users, not IT, and this behaviour leads to higher transaction densities. For four out of five companies, the rise of BYOD has increased WAN bandwidth by 50%. Mobile apps are now constantly updated in the background over the Wi-Fi or cellular network without IT or user intervention.
For these reasons, any remaining resistance to the BYOD trend needs to come to an end as it is becoming the new normal. A carpet ban of personal apps and devices in the workplace cannot be the answer; the pattern of network traffic is too drastically altered. However, by addressing network protocols in order to allow the use of these apps, not only will users get the flexibility they now seek, but company efficiency can also take a turn for the better.
IT must deftly manage the limited Wi-Fi spectrum to achieve this. Improved application-layer visibility is an absolute requirement in order to efficiently allocate bandwidth. Integrated application intelligence and automatic optimisation has been shown to result in in up to 11-times faster performance - all at one-third the cost of previous generation controllers.
These new levels of visibility allow companies to identify specific applications and who is using them. After these apps are identified and visualised, access controls and policies can be applied to prioritise the performance of business-critical apps over personal ones.
As mobile devices fight for Wi-Fi bandwidth, protecting the enterprise apps that matter the most will be vital. Network services like Apple AirPrint and AirPlay, for example, are key to ensuring productivity levels don't dip. In addition, over-the-air performance for common web services like Netflix, Google Drive, Citrix GoToMeeting, Salesforce.com and Dropbox can be prioritised based on user, device and location.
IT organisations that adopt BYOD will require stronger security and guaranteed mobile app performance on a diverse and ever-expanding set of endpoints. But by recognising these cloud-based and mobile applications, IT gains the visibility it needs to say 'Yes' to mobile apps for each user, and scale BYOD transaction and device density well into the future.
Chris Kozup, Senior Director, Aruba Networks