Just as consumers have seen widespread problems when using new data-intensive applications on smartphones, the same problem is also impacting the business world as corporate networks struggle to cope with new demands.
Driven by the increasing proliferation of bandwidth intensive applications such as unified communication, video conferencing and collaboration software, as well as the trend towards cloud computing, networks are struggling to match the increasing demands placed on them.
A recent study analysed responses from 550 CIOs and IT decision-makers across Europe about application performance and the problems they face ensuring users remain productive and that business apps deliver on their objectives.
It revealed worrying trends, with 82% of respondents reporting speed and responsiveness issues within the last 12 months and nearly half of respondents commenting that those types of problem are becoming more frequent. Perhaps more concurringly respondents said it was business critical applications such as enterprise (ERP / CRM), voice and collaboration applications are the most likely to suffer from performance problems.
The survey also emphasises a distinct lack of awareness amongst those overseeing networked applications. Many of Europe's businesses are 'flying blind', without adequate knowledge of exactly what is flowing over their networks.
For example, 69% of respondents are not aware of how much network bandwidth each application they use requires, and nearly one in three do not even know the number of applications running on their corporate network.
Measurement of application performance is also fairly rudimentary in many cases with 55% of respondents admitting that they rely on the 'final line of defence' (namely user complaints to the IT department) as their primary performance metric. In other cases a plethora of competing network level technical indicators such as 'jitter' and 'delay' are in operation.
What's actually required is a simple, single KPI which provides an aggregate view on how well each application is performing which everyone in the company can understand and which can inform improvement. Today this management information seems to be lacking.
The study also charts a rapid growth curve for network capacity with a third of respondents saying they would need to double the size of their networks every two to three years in order to keep up with data growth rates.
Finding money to finance that growth doesn't seem realistic as over half of respondents said their networking budget remained flat or decreased in the past 12 months.
Ultimately the average cost of supplying applications in a large business is approximately $1,000 per user, per month and this significant investment in software and programmes shouldn't be jepordised by under investment in the comparatively minor networking budget.
The takeaways from the study suggest rather than simply throwing capacity at the problem there needs to be a change in mind-set. CIOs and network directors should be asking 'what data traffic is really important to the organisation?' 'Can we do without certain traffic or can it be de-prioritised and prevented from running at peak times?'.
The 'application performance crunch' is only set to be further highlighted during the Olympics as office employees stream sports events simultaneously, adding further strain to corporate networks across the UK and the world.