Understanding Application Visibility with Blue Coat PacketShaper

Updated: September 16, 2009

Let's look at four typical questions that an IT manager might have about their network:

1. First, I may be worried that my users are wasting time on Facebook and MySpace, but are they impacting my network bandwidth and interfering with business-critical applications by accessing these social networking sites? To answer this, we go to the traffic management screen and look at these apps. Here you see the historical graphs for Facebook and while there is some traffic generated, it isn't much more than a few kilobits of bandwidth. Nevertheless, we can change the priority of this traffic, in effect slow down our users' connection to these specific Web sites. We click on the policy manager icon on the left and click on the control traffic tab and select the priority type and then change its priority from number 3 - normal to number 1 - low. There are also other ways to rate limit traffic to a portion of your total bandwidth with the PacketShaper product. This could ensure that if users access audio and video content on these sites, they won't interfere as much with other more business-oriented network applications. You also can completely block this application, should that be appropriate for your situation.

2. Let's move on to another question: Do I have enough bandwidth to handle video-oriented applications like YouTube and WebEx? Video can be a very intensive use of bandwidth and it also suffers in quality if it does not have the right network conditions. If we go back to the dashboard we see that WebEx is among our top ten apps on the pie charts. If we go into the traffic management tab and select this application, you can see that at peak times of the day we are consuming our entire T1 with Webex video conferences. Again, we can give this traffic higher priority, assuming that it is for real business purposes, using a similar process to what we just showed.

3. Here is another issue. What is the impact of real-time streaming apps like Pandora on my network? Pandora allows you to set up a customized Internet radio station that users can listen to on their desktops. The trouble is, they often mute them or walk away from their PCs and don't turn off these streams. Again, we search for this app and display the historical report for average and peak utilization, and you can see that frequently Pandora has various peaks as it grabs new songs to stream.

4. One final question: How do I know that my business critical applications are working properly and have acceptable response times in all of my branch offices? We are looking at this report that is showing this response time information for a variety of applications, with green meaning they are performing within acceptable parameters. Here we see SAP and email, among others are showing some critical warnings

You can see BlueCoat's PacketShaper product put through its paces in this video.

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