New iPad could cause corporate network crunch

Hordes of new iPad users at work could sap Wi-Fi bandwidth, experts say

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About 51% of today's Internet traffic is video, either streaming or videoconferencing, he said, although in the workplace that percentage is closer to 20% or 25%. "People have talked about video over networks for a long time, but now it's just used more often for videoconferencing and more," O'Connell said.

"The new iPad is made for video and we expect to see a lot more personal videoconferencing and creation of videos," he said. As camera size has increased, the data problem has grown, too. He noted that with the iPhone 3GS, the camera was 3 megapixels, taking a still photo that was 1.2 MB in size, while the iPhone 4S has an 8-megapixel camera, creating a still image file size of 2.7 MB. The rear-facing camera in the new iPad is 5 megapixels, compared to less than 1 megapixel in the iPad 2. (Apple never detailed the megapixels in iPad 2's rear-facing camera, just stating it as 720p, which equates to below 1 megapixel.)

"That's a big jump in the new iPad's rear camera, and will cause the most [network] damage," O'Connell said.

Blue Coat sells WAN optimization software, competing mainly with Riverbed and Cisco, and also sells a secure Web gateway, competing with Websense, Cisco and McAfee.

Experiences with Blue Coat's Fortune 500 customers have taught it that some companies are only just beginning to feel the network traffic pinch caused by smartphones and tablets. One manufacturer in Ohio working with Blue Coat has 2,500 workers, but has built out its Wi-Fi network to handle only 10% of that amount, serving what are considered its knowledge workers, he said.

In recent years, the remaining workers have begun showing up with smartphones and tablets expecting wireless connections for various needs, including Web browsing. "Suddenly, the manufacturer has a much bigger problem when the network was designed for just 250 workers," O'Connell said.

A single iPhone 4S streaming high quality video can soak up 500Kbps, he noted. "In a single branch office, that alone can choke more than half of the available bandwidth in a T-1 line," he said.

O'Connell's colleague, Steve Schick, senior director of corporate marketing at Blue Coat, said the new iPad could be a bigger network threat than previous mobile devices brought in by employees. IT shops everywhere are facing the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) issue already. IT officials from a variety of companies discussed the trend at the CITE conference this week.

"Bringing your own device to work is becoming an emotional thing," Schick said. "Everybody across the board loves these devices for watching video or reading something, which is more pleasurable or easier to do than on a laptop or desktop. Even top execs bring them in, as well as the receptionist."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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