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Social media creating new networking needs

By Donna Donnawitz
January 27, 2012
Social media, a somewhat unlikely source for major technical challenges, is becoming a thorn in the side of many IT departments. As more businesses depend on the online communications channel for internal and external interactions, networks are being swamped with unpredictable, data-rich traffic that is difficult to handle. According to a recent TechTarget report, organizations need to respond to this trend by upgrading their WAN architectures to support end users depending on social media in the workplace.

Citing a recent report from firewall vendor Palo Alto Networks, the report said WAN bandwidth requirements are rising quickly in light of increased social media usage. This is driven by a combination of applications, plug-ins and social updates that are often running simultaneously and pushing large quantities of data through the WAN. For example, the study found Facebook-related traffic was just 5 percent of bandwidth in late 2010. During a 14 month period, Facebook grew to taking up and average of 25 percent of the WAN's data throughput capabilities. At the same time, Twitter bandwidth usage rose approximately 700 percent.

Andre Kindness, senior analyst at Forrester Research, told the news source this network traffic will not be going anywhere soon, as businesses continue to do more to enable social media in the workplace.

Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research, told TechTarget that social media is also leading to more video traffic, file sharing and other similar processes. This puts stress on traditional hub-and-spoke WANs, making upgrades necessary.

"I think anyone designing a network now should think about provisioning direct Internet access right to the branch using some sort of split tunnel. The whole architecture of a network that runs a lot of social media needs to change," Kerravala told TechTarget.

Changing the WAN to support social media is just one of the many networking upgrades businesses need to consider in light of changing technological climates. As more consumer devices become part of IT and cloud computing takes an even firmer hold on the enterprise, many experts agree that networking is becoming a priority within organizations, not just a facilitator. As a result, major upgrades from core data center infrastructure out to the WAN and other peripheral connection points are on the horizon.

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