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Eliminating traffic jams for your applications

By: Chandan Agarwal, Jen Toscano

Eliminating traffic jams for your applications

We all know the frustration of being stuck in traffic, wondering to ourselves why there aren’t enough lanes on the highway to accommodate all the commuters. We watch the minutes pass by (in Silicon Valley, we’re talking about a lot of minutes) as we accomplish nothing.  This day-to-day experience is frustrating — it’s time you simply can’t get back. In that way, it’s not very different from the internet experience of many users. When an organization doesn’t have enough bandwidth—much like having too few lanes on the highway—applications start competing with each other and traffic slows to a crawl, leaving your users and your business stuck in a traffic jam. On the highway, the experience tends to be the worst as you’re trying to enter or exit. Again, the analogy applies to the network world, where users experience a type of slowdown known as last-mile congestion.

Does it seem like it’s getting worse?

As more and more traffic heads out from the internal network to the internet congestion worsens, and the cloud and mobility are creating an explosion in internet traffic. When applications were hosted in the data center, the majority of traffic was either local or routed through private links. But today, many organizations report that the majority of their traffic is now internet bound as they adopt SaaS solutions and migrate apps to public clouds. Jim Fowler, CIO of GE, noted that 70 percent of the company’s workload would be in the cloud by 2020.

The rise in internet traffic is driving distributed enterprises to establish local internet breakouts and route traffic directly to the internet—direct connections provide the best user experience and they’re recommended by SaaS providers like Microsoft. But, organizations that cannot or do not prioritize internet traffic will face application performance issues—and user frustration—especially as their traffic continues to increase.

Working in their favor, though, is the fact that enterprises know very well which applications are most critical to their business and productivity. They know that traffic coming from employees using Office 365 should get priority over traffic from an employee who is watching cat videos on YouTube or streaming NFL highlights. With the right solution, enterprises can leverage this information to enable the smooth flow of traffic and a seamless user experience.

The solution is cloud-enabled visibility and control

With full visibility into all applications used across your enterprise, you can optimize bandwidth allocation based on your company’s priorities. Centralized controls enable you to apply policy based on your business priorities. By deploying a cloud-delivered bandwidth control service, you can enforce those policies in the cloud to deliver the predictable and consistent application performance you need, while mitigating the last-mile congestion that slows traffic and thwarts productivity.

Control is more than dialing bandwidth up or down

To manage bandwidth usage and reduce latency, particularly during periods of contention when many users and applications are vying for bandwidth, you need sophisticated controls, like window shaping and flow-control measures.

Window shaping modifies the size of the TCP packets sent to the server, which controls the bandwidth allocated to the application. By changing the size of the packets, you can either speed up or slow down an application’s performance. During periods of contention, window-shaping techniques ensure that lower-priority applications can still run, but that they won’t impact higher-priority applications. For example, if a user is watching a video on YouTube, and it is configured to be a lower-priority application by your organization, the video may drop from 4K high-definition to 780p or an even lower-definition video. While the video quality may be lower, your users will still be able to stream video, and your high-priority traffic is given the bandwidth it needs.

You need to traffic for certain applications and prioritize others

In contrast to the U.S. and Europe, the internet service providers in many countries charge enterprises based on their volume of internet traffic. Imagine a small branch location in Kenya where your users are spending time on YouTube or sharing videos on WhatsApp. Your organization is paying for these recreational activities, so it’s important to be able to cap non-critical applications so they cannot consume your allocated internet bandwidth budget.

For most organizations, the most pressing need is the ability to prioritize business-critical traffic over other traffic. So, if your IT department is rolling out Office 365 or if a member of your sales team is trying to change the status of a deal in Salesforce, you can ensure that your end users get the required bandwidth they need to fulfill their job responsibilities—and not be impacted by other users streaming a video or surfing the web.

Both of these advantages are easy to visualize in this simple yet powerful demonstration video.

Keep your users happy and traffic flowing

With the right bandwidth control solution, you can eliminate the frustration of internet traffic jams and help your users stay productive. You can cap traffic to ensure you don’t overwhelm your bandwidth pipe. And, you can prioritize applications to ensure that business-critical applications, like Office 365 and Salesforce, have priority over non-critical business and recreational traffic. While you can’t build more lanes in the existing highway, you can put your business-critical traffic in the express lane to the internet superhighway.

Stay tuned to read about the three major use cases for bandwidth control in future blog posts.

Read about Zscaler Bandwidth Control

Read the Zscaler Bandwidth Control solution brief

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