Heed the call to collaborate -- but don't let bandwidth-hungry collaborative apps grind your network to a halt
As creators of collaborative software spew out application after application, other ISVs are quickly following up with what you might call the antidote -- software designed to prevent a tidal wave of collaborative programs from overwhelming corporate networks.
Take Avistar Communications, FaceTime Communications, and Permessa, for example. Each ISV offers software to regulate collaborative applications and manage the bandwidth they require.
FaceTime is tracking more than 600 collaborative applications in 11 different "greynet" categories. When used in the office, these greynets can become entry points for viruses, spyware, keyloggers, botnets, and Trojan software.
These greynets include:
• Gaming software
• Multimedia (iTunes, Windows Media Player, and so on)
• Peer-to-peer programs
• Remote admin tools
• Social networks
• Web-based IM
For those unfamiliar with Annonymizers, these applications circumvent controls -- typically Web filtering -- put in place to prevent access to unauthorized Web sites.
Frank Cabri, vice president of marketing and product management at FaceTime, says the company's solution gives network admins better visibility into what's on the network at any given time. The tool, RT (Real Time) Discover, identifies all IM, p-to-p, and Web traffic on a network and can be run off a DVD on a laptop.
FaceTime's Unified Security Gateway is an appliance IT managers can use to enforce policies on all greynets.
"Most IT people are shocked," Cabri told me, at the amount of unauthorized network traffic. RT Discover finds it and breaks it down by category.
There might be eight to 10 IM applications alone that the admin thought were locked down. In 2007, FaceTime tracked 1,088 IM and p-to-p incidents. Of those threats, 19 percent were over AOL IM, 45 percent over MSN Messenger, 20 percent over Yahoo IM, and 15 percent on all other IM networks.
Avistar's approach differs, in that it has injected control mechanisms into its own voice and video communications solution.
Avistar CEO Simon Moss believes that by putting intelligence -- a set of algorithms -- inside the application, you can potentially eliminate the need to buy more bandwidth. Avistar's algorithms identify available bandwidth and determine how much is being used by voice and video.
"At some point, when you hit capacity, the management component allows an administrator to throttle down bandwidth for all users, revert video to audio only, or give a user a busy signal -- meaning the user can't get on the network at that moment in time," said Avistar CTO Chris Lauwers.