When workers return from their holiday break, they'll not only bring a fleet of new tablets and smartphones onto corporate networks -- they'll also add countless new applications that will demand bandwidth and network resources.
While enterprises have been dealing with the bring-your-own-device trend (BYOD) for several holiday seasons, a bring-your-own-application (BYOA) trend has more recently become an issue for IT. Network performance strategies must include application optimization in 2013.
Application optimization: Helping enterprises make way for mobile apps
Employees are using popular mobile applications to get their jobs done, adding another layer of performance issues to the already congested enterprise Wi-Fi networks. Wireless LAN vendors Aruba Networks and Xirrus Inc. are adding application optimization features to their infrastructure products.
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Aruba Networks Inc. recently announced its 7200 Mobility Controller series with Aruba AppRF software, aimed at addressing the proliferation of mobile applications and devices going into the New Year.
"For all the devices that employees are bringing in, they are also bringing multiple applications as well. It's important for the wireless LAN to be able to handle those demands," said Ozer Dondurmacioglu, director of product marketing for Aruba.
The new wireless LAN platform has integrated application intelligence -- Aruba Airwave management software and airtime fairness -- to help control and optimize application delivery. The new controller series will offer enterprises visibility and control over traditional server-based applications, as well as cloud and Web-based mobile applications, Dondurmacioglu said.
"We have added more capabilities now to show IT exactly how much bandwidth a Facebook session for a specific employee is using," he said.
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Xirrus recently announced its new XR-2260 wireless array for the enterprise -- consisting of two modular access points, XR-2220 or XR-2230 802.11n radios -- with two open slots for capacity expansion with either additional 802.11n or 802.11ac modules when they become available, said Bruce Miller, vice president of product marketing for Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Xirrus Inc.
Xirrus’ Access Manager technology and a partnership with Airwatch, an Atlanta-based mobile management and security provider, will give IT improved mobile device and application management, as well as optimization for specific devices and applications to ensure the enterprise network responds predictably under heavy load, Miller noted.
The application control update on the new XR-2260 wireless array will automatically categorize mobile devices according to wireless radio type, and offer native support for Apple devices and services such as Airplay and Airprint on the network with Bonjour Director.
"Enterprises today might have 50 different apps that each user is bringing in -- like iCloud or Android updates that could be hundreds of megabytes of data downloaded onto the corporate network," Miller said. "Application control is huge from the perspective of evening out the variability of BYOD."
Application optimization: Increasing IT's insight into the wireless network
While BYOD and BYOA can't be ignored, strategies will vary among different industries and verticals, said Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst of enterprise networks and video for Campbell, Calif.-based Infonetics Research Inc.
"It will all depend on business goals -- does the enterprise want complete freedom, or are they trying to solve different workflow challenges and processes with these devices and applications?" he said.
Enterprises may be getting closer to mastering BYOD, but bring your own application is harder to master. "Once a device is on boarded -- which is usually the hard part -- employees can generally access applications simply, and without IT necessarily knowing about it," Machowinski said.
Enterprises need a more granular view of the applications being accessed on their network, along with the power to prioritize or even block applications or "applications within applications," said Xirrus' Miller.
Xirrus' deep packet inspection (DPI) technology allows IT managers to block pieces of applications, like games within Facebook, Miller said.
The more knowledge and insight IT managers have into the network, the more effectively they can manage their environments -- without simply blocking tools or throwing more bandwidth at the problem, Machowinski said.
"Maybe the marketing department is using social applications or YouTube to create sales videos that people are watching, which is important to know," he said. "IT needs to dig into what is happening on their network so they can create a proper response to it."