Network capacity planning is an ongoing process that involves continually assessing network utilization, traffic volumes, and traffic type to identify shortcomings like performance chokepoints that can affect the end-user’s experience. Without investing in capacity planning measures, organizations risk decreased employee productivity from degraded network performance, Service-Level Agreements not being met, and ultimately a poor experience for the end-user.

Capacity planning is critical to service availability. The VIAVI State of the Network 2021 indicates that bandwidth demand is still growing, and expected IT budget growth has nearly doubled since last year. This suggests that IT may have the resources for new enhancements to the network that might not have been on the table last year adding additional traffic amounts or changing how traffic traverses the network, possibly causing new chokepoints. In fact, the report also finds that more than 80% will invest in 400Gb speeds by 2023. The need to have visibility into bandwidth allocation is critical to ensure that IT has proper business justification for new enhancements or implementing higher-speed networks.

Let’s examine a real-life example. A tech-savvy end-user at a financial institution raises a ticket with the helpdesk claiming bandwidth problems. Does IT need to assign more bandwidth to make sure this end-user gets her work done? How can they verify and resolve this problem, and ensure it doesn’t happen again?

One way to properly diagnose the problem is with a network monitoring tool that visualizes bandwidth availability and identifies chokepoints easily. Capacity planning views in Observer help with proactive capacity planning and responding to capacity-related issues, like this one.

In this situation, the financial institution’s IT department can easily pull up utilization reports organized by device or site related to the end-user and use the reports to determine whether the bandwidth problem is isolated or more pervasive.

Capacity reports in Observer use a sophisticated burst analysis, logging the number of minutes each link spends with utilization in each range, from >80% to 60-80%, 30-60%, and <30% utilized. IT teams can easily determine whether utilization at that one location is stable, increasing or decreasing over an extended period. For the network engineer resolving the issue, this is especially important — they can pinpoint exactly when the link relevant to the end-user’s problem started becoming congested.

Observer GigaFlow delivers color-coded dashboards illustrating network utilization organized by site or device to resolve capacity-related issues and proactive capacity planning easy and accessible.


But how does the network team know that the link related to that end-user is being used for critical business purposes and not just recreational traffic creating bandwidth pressure?

With Observer, IT teams can leverage NetFlow data at that location to determine what applications are causing most of the capacity usage and if it is indeed critical business traffic causing increased bandwidth load. It could be, for example, that the bandwidth problem is due to an excess of Twitter, Facebook, or video traffic.



By leveraging NetFlow, Observer GigaFlow can even provide insights into what applications causing most bandwidth utilization


We have shown how Observer can be used to identify a capacity-related issue, but how can the organization be proactive in capacity planning to minimize or avoid this happening again? Using color as a guide, a network architect can quickly identify issues in Observer’s capacity planning reports. Immediately, red indicates how many interfaces are in a congested state, for how long, and in urgent need of an upgrade. If the organization wants to get ahead of the problem, color is again their guide. The orange alerts them to links that are nearing maximum utilization between 60% and 80% It then becomes important to monitor those sites for continued increases in utilization. The goal should be to avoid a red alert state because that is when users and productivity suffer. Using this color-coded approach, it’s faster and easier to know what and where to monitor – proactively – and determine the sites that need targeted spend in the next budget period.

Proactive network capacity planning is important because it allows organizations to meet the demands of users within an ever-changing network infrastructure, ensuring that smooth service delivery is maintained. Having a solution that allows for continuous, visual assessment of utilization, volumetric, and traffic type distribution can save on troubleshooting time, impact to users, and support more efficient spending. Observer is an accurate and easy-to-use solution that satisfies all these requirements with actionable data. Whether the bandwidth issue was identified proactively using the capacity planning dashboards, or whether you’re reacting to user complaints, these intuitive, visual workflows can act as a business case to approve extra bandwidth spending, return that location to an uncongested state, and keep your end-users productive.

To learn more about top IT challenges including capacity planning, read Top IT Challenges: Enterprise Network and Security Management.

About The Author

Aidan Lynch, Senior Product Manager for VIAVI Solutions, has long history working in the network management arena. He understands the challenges being faced by network and IT professionals and the impact network performance has on business operations. His deep development, engineering, and product management expertise enables him to demonstrate solutions that keep businesses running and help IT staff sleep soundly. Aidan has a Bachelor of Science focused in Computer Applications from Dublin City University.

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