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Social Networks: If You Build It, Will they Come?

By: Grant Asplund

Originally posted on Federal Blue Print

In an age where technology is changing in the blink of an eye, there is one thing we know for certain: social media applications and networks are here to stay. While old technologies such as voice and instant messenger persist, more and more agencies are integrating video communications into their work platforms. And because agencies like the Department of Defense are using video as part of mission critical operations, the technology needs to work reliably first time, every time.

Recently, I spoke about the rise of agencies, specifically defense agencies, building their own mobile applications to ensure more management and control of the network. Similarly, federal agencies are now considering building their own social networks to avoid issues that arise with commonly used sites like Facebook and YouTube.

A couple of weeks back, HP released the results of their gov2.0 survey, which revealed that the most popular technologies and apps being used by government IT professionals relied heavily on video and multimedia sharing. Not surprisingly, video and multimedia apps are the biggest consumers of bandwidth and, as a result, the most common culprits for network constraint.

In fact, Cisco estimates that by 2014 90% of network traffic will be video-related. But bandwidth consuming video is not necessarily coming from outside the network from employees watching funny cat videos on YouTube. According to this Federal Computer Week article, very few government IT respondents were accessing external social networks like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, as more agencies are developing their own social platforms and bandwidth is consumed

While this movement to self-service social networking may allow a better control on productivity and security, the types of activity still has an impact on how network traffic flows and is managed. Since federal agencies are constrained by the amount of bandwidth they can access, the core issue is not the size of the pipe, since that is fixed, but how traffic inside the pipe can be managed to use the available bandwidth most effectively. Agencies need to identify tools that let them analyze traffic in real-time to allocate bandwidth to ensure that critical applications are prioritized.

Blue Coat’s Packet Shaper give users the ability to see over 700 applications out of the box and analyze network traffic in real-time. We understand that the management of the pipe and the ability to predict what will happen within the pipe based on these new self-service models is going to be critical for agencies moving down this path of building their own networks for employees.

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