Web-based apps challenge traffic management

A dominant trend in IT shops is to move from custom to Web-based applications. According to the report, "Branch Office Networking: An IT Business State-of-the-Market Brief," by Jim Metzler, a principal in consultancy Ashton, Metzler & Associates, currently about 27% of the traffic on branch-office networks is generated by Web-based applications.

However, Metzler observes a significant shift under way to deploy even more of these "chatty" applications: By early 2005, for example, he expects this percentage to grow to 45%.

There are many reasons for this move, including security and the relatively easy integration with browser-based Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. At the same time, there are also some significant challenges.

For instance, as Lynn Nye of APM Advisors recently pointed out in a paper, "Traffic Management: It's about the Application, not the Bits!," most Web applications tend to operate from TCP port 80. However, if SSL is employed, then all of the SSL interactions on port 80 look pretty much the same.

According to Nye, "Even if vendors are able to keep up with 'deep packet inspection' within the network, there are some other issues that challenge the future of this approach as a strategy. Because application profiling is an ongoing process, the vendors of these solutions need to continuously update their products, which becomes a maintenance issue for their customers."

Nye continues, "While Network Traffic Management solutions have their role in networks, they are not infrastructure for the majority of large distributed networks. The challenges with deep packet inspection in the network and lack of operational visibility will keep them relegated to limited tasks."

Consequently, Nye is recommending that end-users start developing a Web Network Architecture that is optimized for delivering this new class of services.