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5 Things IT Leaders Should Think About During March Network Madness « US English

5 Things IT Leaders Should Think About During March Network Madness

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We all love streaming video. In fact, the quality nowadays has become quite spectacular. And with live streaming of political, social, and sporting events, especially now in high definition, you can imagine how congested network traffic has become. Moreover, sporting events like the summer/winter games or college basketball championships are putting increased pressure on not only networks but also those who manage those networks. To be honest, the college basketball tournament in March now seems to have an entirely different meaning to CIOs, network administrators, and sysadmins. It probably should be renamed to “March Network Madness.” 

March Network Madness - basketball

According to NCAA.com, in 2016, "NCAA March Madness Live netted 3.4 million live video streams and 1.1 million live hours of video consumption, the latter a 16% increase over last year.” This was just for the championship game. Over 18.1 million live hours were watched, more than any other tournament. Video consumption for social media was up over 5X from the previous year, dunking 8 million views overall.

March Network Madness in the office

What does that mean to the tournament viewer? A lot of things actually, good and bad. The infrastructure (CDNs, routers, switches, providers, etc.) used to stream the games will most likely be updated and optimized. This means better streams in higher quality with less buffering and stuttering.

But this also means that employers may be looking closely at this streaming as well…but in a different way. When video streams start clogging up corporate networks, potentially knocking more business-critical applications offline or causing performance issues, network administrators will start to mount a stronger defense: throttling, reprioritizing or—gasp—blocking access to the March Madness streams on corporate wired and Wi-Fi networks.

March Network Madness - SteelConnect Rules

And we have some statistics to back this up. At the beginning of March 2017, Riverbed conducted a survey of 500 U.S. IT professionals about how they plan for live streaming events like the college basketball tournament. (We conducted a similar survey during the summer games.) The questions were designed to understand the steps, if any, and the subsequent impact of any actions, that corporate IT staff takes to mitigate overuse of company bandwidth during these times. 

The results resoundingly indicated that IT staff is paying close attention to streaming activities, as 86% of companies with 500+ employees believe that March basketball tournament puts more strain on their network. Also, the vast majority surveyed plan to more closely monitor their networks and apps during the tournament and, 76% have implemented limits and/or reprioritization of streamed content, or have required IT staff to come in early or stay late and have secured additional IT staff or support from a third party. Bottom line, managing live streams during this tournament is driving up OpEx one way or another.

For more insights, the infographic with some eye-opening results is below. (Also, check the fact sheet for more data.)

How will you control the madness?

So where does your company fall to ensure business critical apps are up and running? Will it be allowing full, unfettered access to live streams, or will it be limiting or blocking it? While blocking college basketball content may be the easy way to do it, you also may want to also keep your employees happy by allowing traditional viewing in the break room, for example. Or, limiting or de-prioritizing live streams could be yet another option. But this latter approach is also probably much more complicated to do and could potentially take many more hours to accomplish. 

And how will organizations even know there are issues other than the end user not being able to complete business tasks or the casual “geez, the network is really slow today”? Do companies have true insight and visibility into not only the general performance of corporate networks but also, WHAT and WHO is consuming all of the bandwidth?

The survey did indicate that 88% of companies agree that performance management and monitoring tools are important in understanding performance and end-user experience during high video-streaming events.

These are definitely some of the concerns of network and system administrators during these live-streaming times.

5 things CIOs and SysAdmins should think about during March Network Madness

So, apart from their day-to-day jobs, IT professionals now have the additional tasks being that ref who calls a foul, ensuring that there is fair “game play,” even during live events like March Madness.

Here are five things IT leaders should think about during March Network Madness:

  1. Where is the bandwidth being consumed and Who is consuming it?
  2. Are BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or company assets being used for streaming?
  3. How can the critical business app network routes be optimized, accelerated, or prioritized over non-business streaming such as March Madness?
  4. How can video streaming be temporarily and easily blocked and later unblocked?
  5. How can users who violate corporate streaming policies be identified and throttled or blocked?

This could be easy or difficult, depending on your approach. If you choose the “traditional” path, you will probably be knocked out of the bracket early on as you have to configure a bunch of routing equipment by hand. And you may miss a few free-throws if you are doing CLI code and pushing them to devices.

March Network Madness - SteelConnect traffic path

You could, on the other hand, take the SD-WAN approach with a solution like Riverbed SteelConnect and speed through to the final bracket.

Or you could just watch the games in the break room with everyone else. Just don’t let your boss see you there.

Happy March Network Madness!

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