Pay for what you use, or use what you pay for. These are well-understood concepts in the residential, consumer world, for utilities such as power, gas and water. Even our telephone networks are built on the principle of a line rental, supplemented with a call charging system.
But although the same suppliers provide voice and data networks, we have never seen a pay-as-you-go model for data networking infrastructure. I find that very odd.
It becomes even stranger when you consider that the revolution in software application delivery over the past few years with SaaS has had profound effects on the way we see IT delivery.
So why do we not hear about the development of - to coin a phrase - bandwidth-as-a-service?
I would like to suggest it is because there is an unreported “crime” out there, with the usual suspects being the big telco carriers. The “crime” I believe they want to conceal is that they are forcing their customers to adapt their networks to suit their own business model.
Their motive is that there is a huge problem in ensuring there is enough network capacity to cope with traffic peaks, just so they can meet their service level agreement (SLA) targets.
The upshot is that customers are either paying far too much for unused bandwidth in their contract, or having network performance issues as they reach their contracted limits. There is just no opportunity for flexibility.
What is required is an appreciation of the true network and bandwidth requirements for different departments within an enterprise.
Once the data traffic is understood and monitored, individual flows can be prioritised. Low-priority flows can be capped - these may or may not include YouTube, iPlayer or social networking sites - depending on the business’s requirements.
One example might be a business that is reserving enough bandwidth for 40 concurrent voice calls. When that bandwidth is not being used, it can be harnessed for other applications, instead of being permanently reserved but empty for 50 per cent of the time.
So long as the bandwidth is available when the service is required, the remaining bandwidth can be used far more intelligently and efficiently.
The solution to the aforementioned so-called “crime” is to offer business customers something along the lines of bandwidth-as-a-service. In the absence of such a service, firms can help customers use only what they pay for. This ensures networks are seen as a business asset, used efficiently and productively for application delivery, communications and collaboration.
This is available only through managed service providers at present. But the more IT departments understand they are being shortchanged or compromised with their bandwidth needs, the more the pressure will grow on carriers to offer this too.
Steve Palmer is product manager for data solutions at Azzurri Communications
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