Defining Network-Friendly: A Case for Clarity in Tech Terms
“Network-friendly” is one of those tech terms that’s come to mean different things to different people in IT. Security InfoWatch notes that when the term first popped up in the physical security industry in 2003, experts used it to describe how some applications and systems worked more effectively over a network than others. However, ambiguity remained regarding exactly what capabilities accounted for this difference in performance and whether network-friendly options were relevant for larger organizations.
Without a clear definition, many in the IT space came to see the term as marketing hype — especially as early iterations of networked devices were failing in normal-use situations. While early devices might have performed well on a limited network, they couldn’t necessarily scale up to function effectively for large enterprise networks.
Outlining Specifics for Tech Terms
True network-friendliness should be determined as a function of the specific network in use and the requirements of a connected device on that network. Evaluating just how network-friendly a device is becomes more complex with the possible interactions between connected devices. A network-friendly device must act as a good neighbor, advancing its own function without impairing others’.
This kind of analysis has proven useful for radio-frequency identification (RFID) networks. And when trying to unify wired and wireless environments, outlining these specifics can be invaluable.
Experts must also define a device by more than just its hardware functions to determine if it’s a good neighbor. For example, if an app causes extensive signaling activity, it places undue stress on the network for no good reason. Mobile apps might be able to connect to a phone network, but they’re not truly network-friendly if they introduce unnecessary load.
Security InfoWatch notes that this sort of stress will affect not only the cellular network but also the battery life of the device attempting to connect to it. When a device is designed poorly, it can cause a degraded user interface, slow network access and nonfunctional applications. Truly network-friendly software shouldn’t cause this kind of performance degradation. However, determining that the software is the cause of the problem isn’t a simple task.
The Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) analyzed this problem in their report “Smarter Apps for Smarter Phones” by investigating cellular signaling load occurring independent of traffic volume. Researchers found that users and developers were mostly unaware of increased signaling load because the network operators were the only ones who saw it directly. Developers generally weren’t aware that their choices in the software were causing these second-order effects.
A limited analysis can’t fully identify how secondary effects from a networked device are causing problems. True network-friendliness is created through clarity of design and discipline of practice. Only with these in place can industry buzzwords truly become useful concepts.