Networks are Like Roadways: Avoid Gridlock, Support IoT

As every metropolitan area grows there are multiple forms of transportation to move its people. The obvious and most flexible for the user is the highway and road system. However, this form of infrastructure becomes congested as the population grows, often leading to gridlock if no viable alternatives are provided. In my part of Canada, we expect to spend upward of $50 billion over the next 25 or more years to try to ease the gridlock issue in an initiative called "The Big Move.'

Introductory material for "The Big move" lists seven typical problems that result from gridlock:

  • You are stuck on a 400-series highway for two hours because of a traffic accident.
  • When a bus finally arrives it is over-crowded.
  • The train is 45 minutes late.
  • Because of traffic congestion, you are late picking up your child from day care.
  • The critical electrical part your company needs is held up in traffic.
  • Your commute, which used to take half an hour, now takes 45 minutes.

Sound familiar? As you consider this, do you see similarities in the wide area and local area networks supporting our business environments?

One can view networks as a highway (WAN) and city roads (LAN), with the "on and off" ramps the demarcation points where the two networks intersect. If a city and highway only had roads – with no other type of transportation options, getting people to/from their destination would be challenging and taxing on the infrastructure. In a network, typically LAN switches create a road-like infrastructure that allows virtual traffic to travel to its destination with many routes available, given a mesh-like topology similar to the roads of city. This infrastructure transports virtual traffic, however with increased user congestion, companies can experience bandwidth gridlock.

The Concept of Bandwidth

Bandwidth is about information that can flow through a network connection in a given period of time. It is important to understand the concept of bandwidth for the following reasons:

Bandwidth is finite. Regardless of the media used to build a network, there are limits on the network capacity to carry information. Bandwidth is limited by the laws of physics and by the technologies.

Bandwidth is not free. It is possible to buy equipment for a LAN that will provide seemingly unlimited bandwidth over a long period of time, however, this is not usually the reality.

Bandwidth is an important factor that is used to analyze network performance, design new networks, and understand the Internet. We must understand the tremendous impact of bandwidth and throughput on network performance and design. Information flows as a string of bits from device to device throughout our world.

The demand for bandwidth continues to grow. As soon as new network technology and infrastructures are built to provide greater bandwidth, new applications are created to take advantage of the greater capacity. The delivery of rich media content, such as streaming video and audio over a network, requires tremendous amounts of bandwidth. IP telephony systems are now commonly installed in place of traditional voice systems, which further adds to the need for bandwidth. Large events, such as football games, that occur on school campuses and introduce massive increase in wireless users can adversely affect our networks and our ability, in some cases, to access critical services. We must anticipate the need for increased bandwidth and act accordingly.

More Traffic, More Changes

Today, the IoT movement is resulting in many more endpoints being connected via the network. Some of these devices and applications have deterministic, always-on or real-time traffic patterns like video streaming from an IP surveillance camera or voice from an IP phone. These applications highlight any inefficiencies in the network infrastructure. To address these increasing demands, many take the approach of ripping and replacing the existing "road-like" infrastructure to make bigger systems to support more and more traffic. Imagine if every city tried to expand every road and street with HOV lanes. Physically and financially this would be impossible without leveling the existing infrastructure and starting from scratch.

In a legacy network environment, however, there is an alternative approach to a complete infrastructure do-over to support IP-based technology. Recent switching innovations have been introduced that leverage an existing, reliable infrastructure to create full IP paths with power ideal for supporting IP-enabled endpoints and applications – without the need to rip and replace infrastructure. These innovations are providing customers with the flexibility to design new networks using existing, proven reliable infrastructure to open up free-flowing communications and services that are easy to manage, eliminating pressure and congestion on the network's "highways and roads."

Before investing in costly infrastructure changes to support IP-enabled technology, consider re-energizing what is already working and in place to quickly and easily reach your IoT destination. Learn more:

Richard Kasslack is the Vice President for Strategic Accounts at Phybridge Inc. Phybridge Inc. is the Global leader in Long Reach Ethernet switching technologies delivering Power and Ethernet over a single pair UTP, Coax and multi-pair UTP, eliminating barriers to IP adoption.

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