Insights

SCCM and Total Bandwidth Control

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Networking was never my primary role, but as an SCCM administrator the WAN stood between me everything I did. One thing I’ve learned working in various large and physically diverse environments is that controlling network traffic is key to a successful SCCM implementation. Deploying software can be complicated in itself, but when those deployments impact the network and disrupt the business, all hell breaks loose.

After a few occurrences of network saturation from SCCM, negative perceptions of SCCM may surface in your organization. More specially, an SCCM administrator may be directed to enact more complicated deployment schedules and service windows or enable BITS throttling on clients. Even worse, the networking team may impose heavy-handed QoS rules, thus squeezing SCCM traffic to the point where you can’t do your job in a timely manner. Outside of increased administrative overhead, these reactions can delay the delivery of business critical software or important security updates. That’s a huge a risk in the case of a zero day exploit.

Adaptiva OneSite’s unprecedented integration with SCCM allows for much more intelligent content distribution across the WAN. It also gives administrators more control of standard client operations that impact network, management point, and database performance. In this blog post, I will cover three key features in regards to bandwidth management that differentiate OneSite from any other solution.

Predictive Bandwidth Harvesting

Organizations invest heavily in their network infrastructure for their business operations. Networking teams optimize and monitor traffic that can potentially interrupt business processes. One of the primary features of the Adaptiva OneSite client is its ability to download content over the WAN with no network disruption. OneSite will also distribute that content locally to other clients on the same network using peer-to-peer technology. These features not only allow a company to eliminate remote distribution points where the Adaptiva client is installed, but also eliminate any impact to the WAN. Predictive Bandwidth Harvesting (PBH) is a feature of the revolutionary Adaptive Protocol. OneSite uses PBH to predict network saturation and unused bandwidth to only send packets when there is bandwidth available. The following graphic illustrates the way the PBH fills the gap when a gap is available.

Unlike other technologies that claim to do the same thing, PBH is predictive and not reactive. PBH predicts WAN congestion in milliseconds before it happens, and sends each UDP packet only when the bandwidth will be available. In other words, it knows when there will be gaps to fill. From the perspective of a network monitor, the WAN link will be fully utilized, but business traffic is not impacted. If a company has invested in their network infrastructure, why not maximize their return on investment and take advantage of the unused bandwidth?

Policy Bandwidth Management

In most organizations, SCCM administrators may decide to centralize their Management Points (MPs) as they typically can handle large workloads. By default, clients will check or poll for policy from these MPs every 60 minutes.

Consider the case where you are managing tens of thousands of clients located at many remote offices with slow WAN links. Each client will initiate an HTTP connection to its MP, and the MP will query the SCCM database to see if there are any new policies for the client, then return the results. Considering the amount of policy checks being done by all of these clients in a given day, only a small fraction will return any actionable results such as a new package deployment or client setting change. The process unnecessarily consumes resources on the MP, the site database, and of course the WAN.

This brings me to the Policy Bandwidth Management feature of OneSite, also known as Policy Push. Due to OneSite’s deep integration with SCCM, it immediately detects client policy changes when they are made, then instructs only the targeted clients to check for policy in real time. This feature allows administrators to increase their policy polling interval to the maximum value which is 24 hours. If there are no applicable policy changes for a given client within the 24 hours interval, the client won’t check.

In addition to the WAN traffic reduction, this is a powerful feature because it allows administrators to deploy packages immediately. Without OneSite, administrators still have to wait for clients to run their normal policy polling cycle before a change is detected. With OneSite’s Policy Bandwidth Management, these changes are received immediately. Zero-day patches, for example, get deployed within seconds.

Client Data Upload Bandwidth Management

As client policy polling is a standard operation of the SCCM client, what about inventory? Most SCCM administrators in large environments are dependent on the results of client inventory such as hardware and software inventory for accurate reporting as well as to define collection membership. This is typically a scheduled operation for each client. The process executes a scan of installed software or files, then uploads the results to its MP. In some cases, multiple clients uploading this information to the MP can be taxing to the MP as well as the network.

With OneSite, administrators can enable Client Data Upload Bandwidth Management for each major inventory action including file collection. This feature gives administrators the ability to define how many clients can concurrently upload inventory data to the MP at a given time and it is configurable per each inventory action. As this is an Adaptiva site wide setting, there is also an option to define different rule sets for different clients based on collection membership. If an administrator knows that clients at a given location have a much faster connection to their MP, the number of uploads can be increased accordingly. Having current inventory data is critical, and with OneSite, an administrator can have more control of inventory and not have to worry about a spike on the network or MP.

More Control, Less Disruption

Adaptiva OneSite provides SCCM administrators more control over their SCCM clients and how they operate over the network. An administrator no longer has to bob and weave around limiting schedules, or heavy handed throttling, and can focus more time on managing their environment. Implementing OneSite will not only save a company money by eliminating unnecessary server infrastructure, but it maximizes the return on investment of network resources that would have once been considered wasted.

Best of all, the networking team will never blame or clamp down on you for flooding the network. They might not buy you lunch for being such a perfect WAN citizen, but if you run OneSite they should!

 

Gerry Borger
Senior Solutions Architect, Adaptiva

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