Getting your network in order for Web 2.0

Ready or not, Web 2.0-style content is coming to your network. Whether you know exactly what it is or why it’s becoming important, this type of Web content will soon be a concern for many a network manager.

From automakers to movie renters, industries of all shapes and sizes are incorporating interactive Web features into their online presences. 3D modeling tools, real-time chat forums and combinations of such socializing elements (know as mashups) are changing corporate Web sites, and presenting new challenges for IT staffs. Savvy network managers intent on keeping their infrastructures humming along smoothly will be looking to embrace the social networking trend rather than turning their backs to it. There is certainly no shortage of buzz surrounding such Web 2.0 technologies as blogs, wikis, RSS feeds and other content- and thought-sharing facilitators. When the clouds of hype eventually clear, however, the definition of Web 2.0 will run something like this: A set of technologies that foster collaboration, socialization and knowledge-sharing amongst Internet communities through real-time and largely unregulated forums and platforms.

With such technologies come a host of required tweaks and tune-ups that managers should be thinking about implementing in order to prevent any serious outages or slowdowns.

For instance, many Web 2.0 applications, such as Google Maps, call for multitudes of queries and responses between Web site and server, many more than are currently carried out around apps in the relatively static Web 1.0 world. If a network isn’t prepared with appropriate JavaScript settings, that kind of back-and-forth traffic can slow a site down considerably.

Careful use of caching capabilities is also important in keeping a harness on Web 2.0 apps, according to Robert Hansen, CEO of SecTheory, a California-based security consultancy. Non-static content, he says, is best stored at the database level, which can reduce the delay time it takes to return such content once it is queried. These elements can also be stored as static content and switched out on an hourly or daily basis with updated content, thus making it easier to answer whatever calls are made for it by site visitors. In some corporations, executive-level strategists are starting to see potential in Web 2.0 and are rushing to get the features on their sites.

Retailers such as General Motors believe that giving consumers the ability to discuss their products and brands may help get more mindshare.

In other instances, firms are looking to deploy Web 2.0-style suites that encourage internal collaboration.

Sooner or later, companies are going to be experimenting with social networking, and IT teams will need to ensure communication networks are ready to support this next-generation style of online collaboration.

Perhaps the best thing a network manager can do to prepare for the coming of Web 2.0 is to make a mental adjustment and assume that their businesses will be experimenting Web 2.0-style content and applications and prepare today for what might become a core part of network traffic tomorrow.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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