I'm doing some work for a customer who is moving people from one building to another, and using the opportunity to move them to some newer technology. Virtual desktops, a new printing methodology, and more emphasis on collaboration tools. The office will be a bit of a showcase, and will be used by some of the senior execs, so it’s a high profile project.

Because there will be a lot more people than there are now, and they’ll be using all these new applications, we need to make sure the WAN bandwidth is enough to support everything comfortably, and make sure QoS is configured to protect voice and interactive traffic from the likes of print traffic—we can foresee multiple copies of graphic-rich, full-colour presentations being printed across the network, and we can’t afford for that to disrupt everything else. Especially the senior managers’ weekly videoconferences.

So, how much bandwidth do I need? Okay, let’s start with the printer folk: “How much bandwidth do you estimate you may need for the amount of traffic and number of users you’ll have?”

Answer? “We don’t know—how much bandwidth can you give us?”

And then there was the VDI. It’s a new desktop setup they have, it’s not been formally tested, and they have no idea how much traffic—or even what sort—it will generate.

I can monitor a couple of the desktop terminals they have set up in the IT area, but they’re on the LAN, so will just grab as much bandwidth is available, and the user profile is nothing like what the ‘real users’ will be doing. How much bandwidth do they think they need?—answer “We don’t know—how much bandwidth can you give us?”

Then I get collared by the project manager. “How much are you going to upgrade the WAN to?” I try to explain that without having any information about how much is needed, that really is a ‘how long is a bit of string’ question, but he’s already realised he’s not going to get a nice answer with a round number in it, and has wandered off.

If there was the slightest chance of setting up a reasonable testbed and doing some monitoring, I wouldn’t be worrying. But this has to be ready by Christmas, and half the print and VDI infrastructure doesn’t exist yet.

Everyone says that the network piece is fundamental to the success of the project. In that case, why did I only hear about this last week, and why is it so late in the day that we’re desperately trying to model this completely new environment so that we can make an educated guess as to bandwidth requirements.

Don’t even start me on trying to figure out the QoS classifications I’ll need……