Traffic Management Takes Center Stage on Enterprise Networks

Now that networking is transitioning from a fixed asset to a more fungible commodity in the software-defined age, issues like raw speed and bandwidth are starting to give way to management and architectural design when it comes to crafting top-notch data environments.

This means that more organizations are looking for ways to optimize traffic flows over virtual pathways, which itself is becoming a challenge with the introduction of complex, bursty connections in the cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) edge.

According to Global Market Insights, the network traffic analytics market is set to expand by 20 percent per year from now to 2024 when it will hit $2.5 billion in value. The bulk of this will come in the form of services, which already owns about 70 percent of the market and is set to grow at 24.4 percent over the forecast period. This includes solutions for packet monitoring and recapture, network visibility, security and compliance. At the same time, these solutions are providing new insight into consumer behavior, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, business performance and a host of other value-driven metrics.

The two basic types of traffic monitoring are deep-packet inspection and flow monitoring, says networking specialist Motodata. Individual solutions will implement these techniques in different ways, of course, but in general, they employ a range of historical data analysis tools, intrusion detection and other measures to provide deep visibility into network conditions, identification of bottlenecks and other trouble spots, and overall tracking of resource consumption and bandwidth usage. Without this, the enterprise is literally flying blind when it comes to managing its data load and keeping network costs and performance in line.

One emerging segment of the traffic management field is the network packet broker, which according to one recent study is expected to be an $850 million business by 2023. That’s a 7.73 annual growth rate. Packet brokerage is seen as key in the drive to establish streamlined, automated data center management stacks, as well as efficient cloud services and improved performance of web-based applications and multimedia content. Demand is expected to kick into high gear now that the enterprise is closing in on 100 Gbps in increasingly dense configurations, with much of that traffic transcending the traditional enterprise firewall.

Traffic analysis, and the network visibility it enables, will be a crucial element in the transition to a digital services business model, says Savvius’ Larry Zulch. Few organizations will be able to manage this shift without broad coordination across data center, cloud and edge resources, and you cannot achieve this state without a robust network. Visibility allows NetOps teams to proactively avoid problems related to throughput, capacity and the like, while at the same time rapidly aligning network resources with the needs of constantly changing application performance requirements. Going forward, visibility platforms will increasingly leverage AI, machine learning and other advancements just to keep up with the growing complexity of emerging workflows. Whether you are running a network or flying an airplane, there is no such thing as too much visibility. To date, network management has focused primarily on how the network is faring. Are the switches operating? Are routers communicating? Traffic analysis takes a deeper view to assess how the actual data is proceeding to its destination.

And in today’s connected world, it’s the data that really matters.

Arthur Cole is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years’ experience covering enterprise IT, telecommunications and other high-tech industries.

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