By Todd Johnson, Chairman and President of Kollective
This is the final article in this series on network infrastructure as it relates to your global, internal communications plans. While technology advancements are opening up the possibilities for more effective, streamlined communications inside the firewall, the set of factors that need to be taken into account to achieve these goals are getting no less complex.
I provide specifics on the “control and adapt” features of software-defined network solutions, such as the software-defined enterprise content delivery network (SD ECDN). These kinds of solutions are important because they offer cost-reduction, improved capabilities over hardware-based solutions and the ability to satisfy the growing communications needs of both Business and IT user communities.
In Part 1, I explain what I mean by “control” features. In Part 2, I talk about “adapt” features. In this article, I describe how good delivery infrastructure solutions can help you assess whether or not your enterprise network is ready for more video.
Software-Defined Network Solutions
Software-defined is a term that is increasingly used to describe solutions that deliver network capability in software that may have historically been delivered via hardware devices. The ability for software-defined solutions to be delivered in a fraction of the time, for a fraction of the cost of their hardware-based predecessors has led to the rapid adoption of a wide range of software-defined technologies in today’s enterprise environment.
Software-defined enterprise content delivery network (SD ECDN) technology, for example, leverages existing infrastructure, notably storage and network bandwidth on end-user devices. It is extremely secure and delivers content via a multi-layered crypto-protected mesh that dynamically adapts to network and other consequential changes. SD ECDN is sometimes referred to as peer-to-peer technology, however, it encompasses much more than peer-based delivery and is more accurately termed a network, grid, or mesh solution.
Putting the right control and adapt mechanisms in place to ensure successful video delivery requires some advance assessment and preparation. Some solutions offer the ability to test effectiveness across a customer’s network before an actual deployment.
The best way to do this, in my opinion, is not to use a simulation, but a live test that can be executed in the background and run without the end-user being aware of its existence. A readiness test is typically run by the software provider’s company in coordination with the customer’s corporate IT team, who approve the test’s time and range.
3 Main Benefits of Readiness Testing
Performing a readiness test before live deployment helps those responsible for the network:
- Understand current network capacity limitations
- Develop a clear vision of options and problem spots
- Show how a video program or large file transfer will impact the network
A readiness test can provide essential visibility into the throughput capabilities of a network. Specifically, it can reveal network bottlenecks limiting throughput as well as infrastructure flaws that may be causing performance degradation.
A common outcome is the identification of places in the network that are, unknown to IT, not configured correctly for the work at hand. This pre-test allows for those changes to be made well ahead of the first large-scale, important, live event.
If there are bandwidth constraints in specific places in the network, adding more capacity throughout the rest of the network will not help. As long as the reports are detailed enough, a readiness test can pinpoint offices or users that will likely experience problems in an actual live event. Changes to how the grid behaves or how a given stream is managed within a specific locality can then be put in place.
Furthermore, an effective readiness test can show how a video stream or large file transfer will impact the network. This knowledge lets network owners verify that any connectivity investments they may make will pay off when it comes time to actually holding the first major live event.
Readiness Test Parameters
Following is a list of test variables that some solutions may allow you to define.
- Who to include in the test (by IP addresses)
- When they will participate (start date and stagger start time)
- How long they will participate for (duration and stagger end time)
- Participation rate (e.g., 50% turnout vs total invitees)
- Stream quality (bitrate)
Depending on who you choose to work with, you may also be able to run the test repeatedly in order to fine-tune the network and increase confidence.
Having analytics tools that answer these questions are another important aspect of a delivery solution that includes a readiness test component:
- How efficiently did the stream get delivered?
- Did end user machines experience buffering, delays, etc.?
- What was the overall delivery experience?
Poor network performance often leads to a negative user experience, which in turn may cause employees to turn against the video program and disengage more easily from future deliveries. A good readiness test ensures network professionals do not run into this problem.
Control and Adapt Features Help Networks Thrive
I’d like to sum up this article series by acknowledging that the enterprise network is a living, breathing thing. Software-defined network delivery solutions that support ever-increasing, unforeseeable changes in large corporate networks are worth their weight in gold. The ability to control and adapt to these changes should be one of the most important considerations when looking to solve the content delivery dilemma.
The power of these solutions lie in their comprehensive ability to drive balance between network safety and optimal delivery performance. The ability of an SD ECDN mesh in particular to self-guide and self-optimize using its adapt mechanisms, coupled with its wide-range of control features, enable network owners to master and harness the uniqueness of their network environments so content – organizations’ lifeblood of communication and information – is allowed to thrive.