What do the fiscal cliff and networks have in common?

It is easy to see the synergy between the economy and technology.  Both economics and networking infrastructure require continuous monitoring, adjusting, and balancing of resources with fluctuating demands.

The approaching “fiscal cliff” at the forefront of US politics, the news media, and the business community, is the result of a number of laws which, if unchanged, will result in across-the-board tax increases, spending cuts, and worsening of the national deficit, starting next year. The combination of these events coming into effect at the same time will almost certainly harm short-term economic growth and possibly put the country into another recession.

Just as our politicians are responsible for hammering out the solution to the looming fiscal cliff,  CIOs, managers, and administrators of network infrastructure deal with many issues impacting an organization’s economic bottom line. Let’s explore this concept by comparing tax increases, spending cuts, and budget deficits with network infrastructure elements.

Governments increase taxes to pay for many functions, such as defense, law enforcement, public services, transportation infrastructure, paying off debts, the operation of government itself, and much more. For the most part, every citizen pays taxes, with different kinds of taxes and varying rates imposed to spread the tax burden. Within the context of networking, you could compare bandwidth to taxes: just as one country is dependent on its own economy while also being influenced by other countries’ economies, each business or organization is dependent upon their private network(s), as well as public networks, in the area of bandwidth consumption.

In the world of network connectivity, every user and application utilizes bandwidth. Depending on the users and their applications, they consume different levels of bandwidth. Some applications, like video conferencing and remote big data backups, consume huge amounts of bandwidth. Others, such as simple web browsing, typically don’t take up much bandwidth at all.

While governments can impose higher taxes, businesses can’t really charge remote end-users more money for the bandwidth they consume. However, they can use bandwidth management products like WAN optimizers to reduce bandwidth consumption and accelerate application delivery. WAN optimizers can also be used to define rules that limit certain applications from consuming too much bandwidth, and to create rules that allow mission-critical applications to have more bandwidth allocated to them over less important traffic.

If an IT department is told that spending cuts are coming, that typically means jobs may be at stake and planned network upgrades might be postponed or eliminated. More pressure will be put on the IT department, as the business relies on networks to support their customers, an ever-growing number remote and mobile employees, and their business partners.

It’s true that networking technologies won’t guarantee job security, and no vendor or service provider will give away their products and services for free. But there are networking technologies that can help lower both capital and operational costs, and simplify network management. Virtual WAN optimizers (vWOCs) can be very cost-effective. These software devices can be installed on existing hardware, such as servers, routers, switches and storage devices. They can also be provisioned on an as-needed basis. In other words, you only pay for what you need – when you need it.

When it comes to budget deficits, no CIO, or for that matter, network manager wants to be put in a position where they have to defend their reason for going over budget. Yes, there will always be new applications and business opportunities that depend on the networking department to support, and many of them are business-critical. So how do you balance business needs with budget limitations?

While politicians on many governmental levels struggle with this answer, networking managers have an ally in virtual WAN optimizers to provide huge benefits and advantages. Whether you are a cloud operator, network service provider, or large enterprise; remote storage backup, replication, and disaster recovery are mission-critical to your business. Regardless of the economic benefits from these services and others, if IT staff and end-users are unable to quickly backup files and access their data, not only will revenue and productivity be impacted, business continuity and disaster recovery will be compromised. vWOCs are a cost-effective way to protect these assets. Whether the problems come from limited bandwidth, network latency, or network quality the performance improvements achieved with vWOCs can deliver an economic advantage. In addition to the cost benefits I mentioned earlier, you can address fast changing workloads by quickly spinning up new virtual WAN optimizers to handle dynamic migrations, big data replication and increased traffic demands.

So, while politicians battle over looming tax increases, spending cuts and a broadening national deficit, it’s nice to know that networking professionals have great solutions available to help them optimize network bandwidth, improve performance and take advantage of flexible cost controls to stay clear of the cliff’s edge.

Image credit: brosner (flickr) – CC-BY-2.0