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How fast enough does a network need to be, to make it acceptable for remote or mobile use from a laptop?

First published on IT-Director.com.

How fast enough does a network need to be, to make it acceptable for remote or mobile use from a laptop? Always faster than it currently is. Bandwidth increases, performance accelerates, but it's never quite good enough. In remote or mobile use, bandwidth will always lag behind the fixed or LAN connection, so the problem remains.

The problem lies with the fact that in that most cases, business applications have been designed with LAN use in mind, not a slower cellular, remote or intermittent connection. There are several ways to address the challenge, but most involve making changes to the underlying applications. There is no simple solution that fits all needs, as different techniques are required depending on the circumstances.

Compression techniques can help especially where bandwidth is at a premium. Some communication protocols are inefficient, and they need specialised techniques to inspect and streamline their processing. It takes more than compression to improve overall performance to the user. Many of the differences between being there and feeling like you're there have more to do with the perception caused by latency and delays, rather than the maximum throughput of bandwidth.

Appropriately named Bytemobile, a California headquartered company has addressed how some of these problems affect operators and Internet service providers with its Optimization Services Node (OSN) product. This is a carrier grade product, and scales up to 100,000 users per node, running typically on a Sun Netra platform.

The growing need for companies to provide remote workers with a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) link back to the enterprise means corporate users do not see this benefit. However, there is another Bytemobile product, Optigo, and its optional file-sharing module. Optigo provides general-purpose acceleration of traffic, and optional module targets file sharing by caching and transparent incremental updates of changes to files being shared. These run on the Windows platform and address the needs of enterprise users and provide optimized communication inside the VPN.

Optigo uses a three-part process to optimize data. First using classification of the data to decide which algorithms to employ. Then compressing and reducing the volume of data transmitted, and finally speeding the communications protocols used by reducing the number of transactions required for data transfer. There are some control settings that can be applied by users, but otherwise the product creates efficiency, silently, in the background.

The product uses application knowledge to speed the performance of primary business tools such as Microsoft Outlook, and has just been updated to support Outlook 2003 and Lotus Notes and Domino. The new update is also made ready for use over 3G networks. It already supported GPRS and wireless LAN connection, and is designed to cope with intermittent connection.

The real key for the mobile and cellular links is the level of data reduction introduced by this technology. This is typically around a 3 to 5 factor reduction for email and web page traffic. Whilst this makes the user experience more real time, it also reduces the cost for by the byte billing rates.

Bytemobile had packaged its OSN technology well for the carrier market, but this market is of limited size. By creating an enterprise package that is compatible with business applications and easy to set up, they have extended their market opportunity significantly.

For enterprises looking to give more employees remote access to the corporate network, Optigo provides a speed boost to improve the user experience. For those looking to give more employees mobile access, Optigo provides a financial boost to improve the bottom line.


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