The Olympics Are a Test of Strength for Communication Networks

Author: Rosa Lear, Director of Marketing, Edgewater Networks

EWN_Logo_1SEP11Headlines screamed when 2012 London Olympics attendees were requested to reduce their use of “non-urgent” communications. Reuters reported that massive data use was impacting the ability to provide coverage of the event. This eye-opening moment in technology history showed that even for such a large event, networks weren’t prepared to handle the onslaught of communications.

We’ve moved from Olympic coverage being static – using television, broadcast, and print, to everyone in attendance using real time communications for the consumption of the masses. This year at the games in Rio, Michael Phelps, the most successful Olympian in history, took to Facebook using their live stream feature to speak with fans. We’re seeing everyone from the athletes themselves to media outlets share every moment of the day through seemingly endless tools. From Whatsapp (which is highly popular in Brazil), to Twitter, Facebook Messenger, YouTube, SnapChat, and more, there’s a lot of bandwidth being consumed for interactive, real-time communications.

The Olympic coverage evolution is being felt outside of the stadium too. We’re seeing a ripple effect back home in the office where employees are reveling in the excitement of all the consumable content. From a study done by Riverbed, IT professionals surveyed reported that they saw most employees accessing Olympics data through their desktops and laptops (48%), followed by smartphones (34%), and finally by tablets or other mobile devices (18%). Now we’re left wondering if enterprises are any more prepared than the network of the 2012 London games.

Communication Networks Strain and BYOD

 Hopefully IT teams took a lesson out of the last Olympics and put in place plans and technologies to manage surges in data usage. But it’s likely that even if changes were made, they didn’t consider BYOD since it was just becoming popular.

The strain placed on communication networks by the 2016 coverage presents even more issues when you consider that employees are using varied and unvetted devices to watch coverage while connected to your network. Whether through a mobile phone or tablet, they have the ability to continue working while also being just “a little” distracted watching a streaming video of Usain Bolt tearing up the track. Multiply that over the whole enterprise and it’s likely that business critical applications will take a hit.

There a couple of solutions to managing traffic flow:

  • Option One: Completely block Olympic coverage.
  • Option Two: Put in place technology that uses protocols to prioritize actual work communications.

Gold Medal Networking

If you’ve chosen option two, then you’ll need to whip your network into gold medal shape. With an intelligent edge, business critical applications can be prioritized so that there is no impact to quality of service (QoS_ for the end users. With session border controllers (SBCs) monitoring MOS scores, service managers can use that data and set appropriate quality gates to manage traffic. If traffic continues to grow, additional SBCs can be deployed and configured through a control center to handle the influx of sessions. In this example, it will be important to have high session performance when encryption and media transcoding are active.

It’s Not All Fun and Games 

 The downside of all this pomp and circumstance is that security becomes an issue. Hackers are served up the perfect amount of chaos to distract from their meddling in networks. Mix that with companies still struggling to manage security of BYOD with solutions like mobile device management suites and we’re left wanting more.

Companies are in need of greater visibility to safeguard against these attacks and that’s exactly what an intelligent edge can provide. As a service provider using this technology, you can feel secure knowing that the communication networks you leverage have a single portal that shows everything happening at your customer sites.

With SBCs going beyond the basic firewall, they dissect packets to connect only authorized endpoints. Sitting in the session layer, they terminate and reassemble communications to manage and secure in one harmonious motion.

Ready to learn more about getting your network into tip-top shape? Read more on the topic of intelligent edges on our blog.

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