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Managing bandwidth needs and consumption is a discipline that has existed since the first 150bps modems connected computer systems together. Today, with multi-gigabit links becoming an everyday reality, we are still facing the same conundrums. Only the number of zeros have changed.

One thing to remember is that bandwidth and bandwidth management is a means to an end, and not an end in itself. We need adequate performance for our applications and users for the minimum expenditure. To do this effectively -- first and foremost we must understand what 'adequate' means for these users and applications. Only once this first, often omitted, step is completed, can we effectively employ any bandwidth management techniques.

Here is a list of five quick tips on better bandwidth management:

1. More Granularity
Effective bandwidth management is all about having good information. The more important a link -- the more granular our information needs to be. Five minute polling may be alright for much of the infrastructure. It is incredibly inadequate for a critical link -- carrying latency sensitive data. A 10 second 100% spike -- completely obliterating the SLAs of all critical applications will be reduced to a 3 percent bump (or even less) on five minute polling cycle. Even a 30 second event is going to be reduced to only 10%. Being able to poll critical links at high frequencies -- 10 seconds or below -- will give you the information you need to address transient (if you can call an issue lasting 30 seconds transient).

2. Latency measurements
Whether you have sufficient bandwidth or not, what really matters to the majority of today's applications are the latency and jitter characteristics of the link. With modern queuing technologies even high bandwidth utilization may not have an adverse impact on the quality of the services provided by the link. Technologies such as Cisco IPSLA and Juniper RPM can help continuously monitor these very important KPIs at very good resolution. Since you can use these technologies to run tests that look like the real applications (HTTP, DNS, specific ports and not just ICMP), the traffic generated by them will be queued and treated as if it is the real thing -- giving you a very accurate picture. Monitoring them continuously can help build good baselines and spot deviations immediately.


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