Application identification and control continue to be the 'Achilles heel' for major organisations, according to application delivery network specialist Blue Coat systems.
The firm says it has discovered that 'upwards of 50 per cent of applications taking up bandwidth are non-business critical ones, recreational or they don't really add to the value of the business'.
Facebook, YouTube and flash video are often three of the top five applications on corporate networks and Blue Coat says that 'shocks people'.
These revelations about the current impact of social networking applications on the operations of major enterprises were revealed by Blue Coat in Singapore, during a regional roadshow to promote enhanced software for its PacketShaper Appliances.
The new PacketShaper, according to Blue Coat, provides enterprises with 'application accountability plus network visibility, acceleration and security.
Recreational applications 'taxing'
"Application accountability enables businesses to better assure the quality of bandwith-hungry business-critical applications and communication, including telephony and video conferencing, while controlling usage of progressing more taxing recreational applications," said Blue Coat.
Blue Coat's director of product management, Steve House, said enterprises generally have a light bulb 'moment of truth' when they actually see what's going across the network, what's consuming resources.
"Invariably when enterprises are asked how many applications are using their network resources, they are invariably out by a factor of two to three, and sometimes as much as 10," House said.
"Often enterprises can find that somebody in the office has been listening to Internet radio all day and I don't care how much you squeeze down your Oracle, if there's no bandwidth for it, there's no bandwidth for it. Just prioritising business processes and eliminating any 'garbage traffic' actually has a better return on investment (than just WAN acceleration). It's not acceleration but you have eliminated that congestion.
"I talked to a customer the other day who had blocked Facebook and within 48 hours they had to unblock it. Marketing and HR had complained that it was critical to them getting the job done."
Uncovering major surprises
House said PacketShaper has helped enterprises discover major surprises.
"A marketing research company based in the US was having problems connecting with its South Africa office," he said. "The bandwidth on its WAN link was completely consumed and it found that 75 per cent of that traffic was Facebook.
"In another one case at a bank, they were able to discover there was an application that one of the tellers created, that allowed two other applications to talk to one another. This was something the teller wrote and was using at a server at his workstation, that was also used by almost every teller across the whole banking organisation. The IT department in the bank had no idea that this application existed, nor that it was being used in such an important way. They were able to take it over to ensure it had the necessary bandwidth."
House said businesses need to understand what applications are consuming network capacity so they can align network resources with business priorities and re-gain network control.
"Applications have not been held accountable for the network resources that they consume and most companies haven't really cared about that," he said.
"One of the changes due to the economic downturn is that companies are now wanting to regain, or even just gain control of their networks, when they haven't had that before."