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The Problems You See with UC

Network General Corp. recently released survey findings showing that unified communications (UC) applications are contributing significantly to network traffic and performance problems, something that it says is poised to become even more pronounced.
By Leonard Klie - Posted Sep 7, 2007
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Network General Corp. recently released survey findings showing that unified communications (UC) applications are contributing significantly to network traffic and performance problems, something that it says is poised to become even more pronounced.

The survey, which polled nearly 600 IT professionals worldwide, found that 75 percent of companies estimate that a quarter of their network traffic over the last three months consisted of unified communications-related applications, such as Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIP), unified messaging, and instant messaging. Forty percent of them currently use integrated voice, video, and Web conferencing, and nearly 70 percent have deployed VoIP. Nearly 80 percent of respondents expect network traffic from their communications applications to increase during the next year.

Already, Internet browsing, video, email, and Web conferencing account for roughly 78 percent of the additional network traffic. Broken down, email accounts for 21 percent, video applications for 20 percent, VoIP for 12 percent, Web conferencing for 8 percent, and instant messaging for 3 percent.

With the increasing communications traffic, IT managers constantly will be confronted with maintaining quality of service for all applications. The ramp-up in UC is already taking its toll, as 38 percent of companies have suffered some network and application performance problems due to the convergence of communications applications onto their IP network. Almost 20 percent said they were having performance problems but could say for certain that they were related to the convergence of communications.

For many, the problem stems from a lack of understanding about the technologies and their unique capabilities. "First you start blending things that were not together before, and now you are combining them on a single platform," explains James Messer, director of technical marketing at Network General, which is based in San Jose, Calif.

"With the growth of unified communications and additional new applications, IT departments are finding that their environments are becoming increasingly complex, as each new service often comes with unique management tools," Messer adds.

To reap the full benefits of unified communications, companies must put in place the tools to comprehensively manage applications and ensure that quality of service is maintained, he says. 

The best way to do that is to have technologies and processes in place to monitor and baseline all the pieces of their network infrastructure, including the IVR system, routers, switches and servers. "There are so many technologies right now, and they all have to work in concert, so you need a full view of them all," Messer explains. "You need to look at the entire business container."

Messer has identified three steps that all companies looking to integrate a unified communications package need to do:
• Begin monitoring and baselining to get an idea not only of what traffic will be like, but what the user experience will be like;
• Spend some time on the process, planning for and getting a full understanding of it; and
• Change company philosophies to reflect the changing technologies.

"In the past, the voice people took care of the voice part, the IT people took care of IT, security took care of security, and networking took care of the servers," he notes. "Now, they are all on one team, and the silos are fading. Where they have not faded, that’s where companies are having the most problems."

"It’s no longer just about bandwidth, but about how everything is performing together," Messer continues. It’s also "not about changing just one thing but looking at the entire service overall."

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