NetEqualizer News: October 2012


October 2012

Greetings!

Enjoy another issue of NetEqualizer News! This month, we announce availability of our new NetEqualizer GUI, remind you about the upcoming Midwest Technical Seminar at Washington University – St. Louis, and offer a shipping credit to our international customers as part of a spooky NetEqualizer Halloween celebration. As always, feel free to pass this along to others who might be interested in NetEqualizer News.

A message from Art…
Art Reisman, CTO – APconnections

During October in the United States, all things become about Halloween. This is big business here, rivaling Christmas in sales, particularly of costumes, candy, and scary decorations. I must admit that I love Halloween and do go all out each year decorating my yard with spooky animatronic figures, a mini fake cemetery, and pumpkins from the garden!

As I have read that many countries love Halloween, we are offering our own “treat” this year to help our international customers celebrate! For a limited time, we will ship internationally at a scary good price ($275 max shipping credit). Read more about this promotion below. Happy Halloween!

We love it when we hear back from you – so if you have a story you would like to share with us of how we have helped you, let us know. Email me directly at art@apconnections.net. I would love to hear from you!

New NetEqualizer GUI Now Available

Over the last couple issues of NetEqualizer News, we’ve discussed our 6.0 Software Update, and in particular our new GUI, quite a bit. Well, our beta testing was a big success, and the GUI is now available to those who wish to have it. The actual GA release will be available in one to two weeks.

Here are some of the exciting new features you’ll see in the new GUI:

- New Dashboard Feature

- Menus Aligned by Key Functions

- Consistent Look and Feel

- Professional Quota API

Check out the previous issue of NetEqualizer News for details on each of the above features.

Our beta also resulted in great recommendations from our customers. Here are some additional features we’ve added based on feedback thus far:

- Dashboard Auto Refresh on three different time intervals.

- A Bytes/Bits Conversion Calculator to help you set up your NetEqualizer.

- An Old GUI/New GUI Map that helps you see where interfaces in the old GUI now reside in order to make the transition to the new GUI easier.

Please email us if you would like to have the new NetEqualizer GUI! All new units will ship with the new GUI, and, as stated above, the GA release will be in one to two weeks.

To view a live demo NetEqualizer, with the new GUI installed, click here to register.

And, as always, the 6.0 Software Update will be available at no charge to customers with valid NetEqualizer Software Subscriptions (NSS).

For more information on the NetEqualizer or the upcoming release, visit our blog or contact us at:

sales@apconnections.net

-or-

toll-free U.S. (888-287-2492),

worldwide (303) 997-1300 x. 103.


Midwest Technical Seminar Reminder

There is still time to register for the Midwest Technical Seminar on Monday, October 29th at Washington University – St. Louis!

The half-day seminar will include lunch after the event concludes. If you are in the area, we’d like to see you there!

Click here to register and learn more!


A Halloween Shipping Treat

As part of our Halloween celebration, we want to offer a shipping credit for all of our international customers! This means that we will ship anywhere in the world and apply a maximum $275 credit toward shipping costs.

From now until December 2012, take advantage of this great savings opportunity!

For more information on the Halloween shipping promotion, contact us at:

sales@apconnections.net


Best Of The Blog

Editor’s Choice: The Best of Speeding Up Your Internet

By Art Reisman – CTO – APconnections

Over the years we have written a variety of articles related to Internet Access Speed and all of the factors that can affect your service. Below, I have consolidated some of my favorites along with a quick convenient synopsis.

How to determine the true speed of video over your Internet connection:

If you have ever wondered why you can sometimes watch a full-length movie without an issue while at other times you can’t get the shortest of YouTube videos to play without interruption, this article will shed some light on what is going on behind the scenes.

FCC is the latest dupe when it comes to Internet speeds:

After the Wall Street Journal published an article on Internet provider speed claims, I decided to peel back the onion a bit. This article exposes anomalies between my speed tests and what I experienced when accessing real data.

Photo Of The Month

Autumn Walk in the Aspens

Winter is coming here in Colorado. We’ve already had a few very light snows in the area. Despite the onset of cold weather, it really is one of the most beautiful times here. The trees are at their most brilliant and the snow-capped mountains contrast scenically with the bare foothills. If you’ve never been up to the mountains to check out the changing aspen trees, it’s an experience you won’t forget.

NetEqualizer News: September 2012


September 2012

Greetings!

Enjoy another issue of NetEqualizer News! This month, we preview our new GUI for NetEqualizer, discuss a recent NetEqualizer case study we conducted with one of our customers, and announce our next technical seminar at Washington University – St. Louis. As always, feel free to pass this along to others who might be interested in NetEqualizer News.

A message from Art…
Art Reisman, CTO – APconnections

Fall is officially in the air in Boulder, Colorado! Cool nights are now the norm and my backyard garden is full of ripe zucchinis and tomatoes. As promised in last month’s newsletter, our NEW NetEqualizer GUI is almost ready for harvest! We will be conducting our Beta Test in September with a limited number of participants. We expect our GA release to be available in October. If you are interested in being part of our Beta Test, please email me!

We love it when we hear back from you – so if you have a story you would like to share with us of how we have helped you, let us know. Email me directly at art@apconnections.net. I would love to hear from you!

New NetEqualizer GUI
The new, highly-anticipated NetEqualizer GUI is here, and we are ready for Beta testers!

The new GUI is part of the 6.0 Software Update, and includes the same functionality that you already know, with enhancements in the following areas:

New Dashboard Feature

Our new Dashboard provides an intuitive visual display of the status on critical data and settings within NetEqualizer. The Dashboard contains on/off statuses for Equalizing, ntop, Packet Capture, Quotas, and Caching, so that you can quickly tell if your key functions are running. It also contains statistics about traffic running through your NetEqualizer.

Menus Aligned by Key Functions

We have redesigned our menus to better support your workflow. For example, if you are setting up and configuring your unit, all key functions related to this are now in the “Setup and Configuration” Menu section. Other key menus are Management and Reporting, Troubleshooting and Support, and Maintenance and Reference.

Consistent Look and Feel

We’ve enhanced our look and feel by modernizing the interface and improving error messages, buttons, and colors.

Professional Quota API 

The Professional Quota API functionality introduced in 5.8 has been incorporated into our 6.0 GUI. The Professional Quota API helps you to quickly and easily utilize our NetEqualizer User-Quota API toolset commands via a GUI interface.

Please email us if you would like to be part of our Beta Test! Tests will run throughout September, with our GA release sometime in October.

To view a live demo NetEqualizer, with the new GUI installed, click here to register (because of security reasons, we can’t give the password to the live demo machine here).

As always, the 6.0 Software Update will be available at no charge to customers with valid NetEqualizer Software Subscriptions (NSS).

For more information on the NetEqualizer or the upcoming release, visit our blog or contact us at:

-or-
toll-free U.S.(888-287-2492),

Library Case Study
Washington County Corporate Library Services (WCCLS) recently agreed to participate in a NetEqualizer case study.

The case study expands on our already-existing Testimonials section of our website by discussing the challenge that was faced by the customer, what other solutions were considered, and what the benefits and results were with NetEqualizer.

Take a look at the WCCLS Case Study here!

If your organization would like to participate in a similar case study, we’d love to talk to you! Email sandy@apconnections.net if you are interested.


Midwest Technical Seminar at WUSTL
Our CTO, Art Reisman, is coming to Washington University – St. Louis (WUSTL) for a NetEqualizer Technical Seminar!

The half-day seminar will be hosted by WUSTL on Monday, October 29th and will include lunch after the event concludes. If you are in the area, we’d like to see you there!

To learn more, and to register, click here.


Best Of The Blog

Just How Fast Is Your 4G Network?

By Art Reisman – CTO – APconnections

The subject of Internet speed and how to make it go faster is always a hot topic. So that begs the question, if everybody wants their Internet to go faster, what are some of the limitations? I mean, why can’t we just achieve infinite speeds when we want them and where we want them?

Below, I’ll take on some of the fundamental gating factors of Internet speeds, primarily exploring the difference between wired and wireless connections. As we have “progressed” from a reliance on wired connections to a near-universal expectation of wireless Internet options, we’ve also put some limitations on what speeds can be reliably achieved. I’ll discuss why the wired Internet to your home will likely always be faster than the latest fourth generation (4G) wireless being touted today…

Photo Of The Month

Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock, located in Cannon Beach, Oregon, is a 72 meter-high sea stack. A stack is a geologic landform consisting of steep rock along the coast that has been isolated by erosion. There are lots of accessible and interesting tide pools surrounding this rock that are constantly being studied by a full-time team of biologists.

NetEqualizer News: August 2012


August 2012

Greetings!

Enjoy another issue of NetEqualizer News! This month, we preview our new NetEqualizer GUI, introduce P2P Blocking on the NetGladiator, and ask for your help compiling NetEqualizer user experiences. As always, feel free to pass this along to others who might be interested in NetEqualizer News.

A message from Art…
Art Reisman, CTO – APconnections

With August comes the beginning of the fall harvest. Farmer’s markets are just beginning to fill up with summer squash, corn, and tomatoes in our area! Seeing nature’s bounty gets me thinking about how to enrich our products and offer our own bountiful harvest.

After nine years, we felt it was time to refresh the NetEqualizer GUI. I’m excited to announce that we are redesigning our interface to improve look & feel and make it easier to use! On the NetGladiator side, we are leveraging our DPI technology to add P2P Blocking to our security capabilities. Both projects will be ready for the fall harvest! Stay tuned to NetEqualizer News for updates on availability and release details.

We love it when we hear back from you – so if you have a story you would like to share with us of how we have helped you, let us know. Email me directly at art@apconnections.net. I would love to hear from you!

Coming this Fall: New NetEqualizer GUI
After 9 years we are finally revamping the GUI for the NetEqualizer!

The new GUI will provide the same functionality that the current GUI has, but it will be presented in a much more organized, intuitive, and modern way.

We will also be developing additional functionality that allows users to more easily and effectively administer their NetEqualizers.

One of the most exciting improvements is a new dashboard feature. The dashboard will be the default home page and will provide a heads up display of the most critical data and settings within NetEqualizer.

Beta testing for the new NetEqualizer GUI will begin sometime in September with a full release coming this fall. And, as always, the new GUI will be available at no charge to customers with valid NSS. Stay tuned to NetEqualizer News or our blog for announcements regarding the new GUI!


Share Your NetEqualizer Experiences!
We love it when we hear from our customers – especially messages of appreciation for the products we work so hard on.

As part of our Library Survey a few months ago, we received a message from Sara Holloway, of Handley Regional Library, asking if she could write an article about NetEqualizer for our blog. We thought this was a great idea, so Sara wrote this post. Thanks Sara!

Starting this fall, we want to open up our blog to our customers more often. Writing a post on our blog is beneficial to us, our readership, and you!

It is a great way to gain exposure for your business and to contribute to a widely-read blog.

If you are interested in being a guest contributor, email our Director of Marketing, Sandy McGregor, at sandy@apconnections.net!


Block P2P with NetGladiator
NetGladiator is already proving to be an effective hacking and botnet deterrent, but the usefulness of NetGladiator does not stop with web application security. Because of the customizable nature of the configuration, and the fact that NetGladiator is built on powerful DPI technology, the sky is the limit in what you can do with NetGladiator.

We wrote about some of the potential uses last month, and we are excited to announce an implementation of one of those ideas – P2P Blocking – available as an additional module to existing NetGladiators.

This implementation differs from our P2P feature on NetEqualizer. NetEqualizer focuses on managing the effects of P2P on a network through equalizing. With NetGladiator, we serve a security-driven need. P2P is one of the most common ways that malware gets through firewalls and enters internal machines. Thus, with NetGladiator, we actually block the protocols completely – greatly improving security.

We’ve already implemented the top 10 P2P protocols, but if your organization is facing a particular protocol outside of the top 10, NetGladiator can be configured to block it.

Take a look at this report from a NetGladiator equipped with P2P Blocking (click here for accompanying blog post). You’ll notice that NetGladiator can effectively determine traffic P2P signatures and display which protocol has been discovered, all without hampering other traffic or user experience.

For more information on this new feature or NetGladiator in general, visit our website or check out our blog. You can also send questions to ips@apconnections.net!


Best Of The Blog

How to Build Your Own Linux-Based Access Point in 5 Minutes

By Steve Wagor – COO – APconnections

A popular post from the archives!
The motivations to build your own access point using Linux are many, and I have listed a few compelling reasons below:

1) You can use the Linux-rich set of firewall rules to customize access to any segment of your wireless network.
2) You can use SNMP utilities to report on traffic going through your AP.
3) You can configure your AP to send e-mail alerts if there are problems with your AP.
4) You can custom coordinate communications with other access points – for example, build your own Mesh network…

Photo Of The Month

Bulls in a Kansas Farm Field

These bulls may be angry, but at APconnections we are happy and excited for the near future – you could even say we are “bullish.” Our exciting new NetEqualizer GUI and NetGladiator feature enhancements are all great reasons to celebrate the upcoming fall season, and we are very optimistic in the value these improvements will provide to our customers!

Handley Library Case Study: A post from the trenches….


Editor’s Note:  We would like to thank our guest contributor, Sara Holloway of Handley Regional Library, for contributing this post about her experience with the NetEqualizer.  Thanks Sara!

Handley Regional Library Logo

Greetings!  I am a librarian from a medium-sized library system in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia who has stumbled into the world of NetEqualizer.  During my 19 year tenure here at Handley Regional Library, our computer landscape has changed radically.  When I came on board in 1993,  the library boasted XT computers that booted to our Novell network via a 5.25″ floppy disk.  Our monitors were 13″ amber screens that glowed with the pre-GUI interface of DataTrek, our integrated library system (ILS).  The only “real” computer was in the director’s office – a Compaq AT box with a VGA monitor, running Windows 3.0.  We had no computers for the public to use, but did provide a typewriter for those who needed to create a document.

Since then, we have made many changes in our IT infrastructure and in the computing services we provide.  We are not a cutting-edge technology library, like many I read about in the library literature, but we do a good job with what resources we have.  Handley Regional Library now has three branches, serving two counties (Frederick and Clarke) and the city of Winchester.  We have 120 computers serving staff and the public.  I am proud to be one of the “farmers” that helped this garden grow.

In 2010, our telecommunications began to show the strain of over 100 computers on the WAN and trying to use the Internet simultaneously.  We changed telecomm providers and were able to eke out a little more bandwidth within the tight budget constraints we faced.  Still, staff and patrons alike complained about the computers being slow.  Everything came to a head in late July 2011, when our telecomm circuits were suddenly maxed out and our ILS system (Library.Solution provided by TLC) ran at a snail’s pace.  Of course, I was on vacation at the time!

The day I returned from vacation, I received a call from a colleague.  “We have a real problem!  When will you be back?”  I immediately discovered, upon my return to work, she was correct.  There was a real problem; I just didn’t know how to fix it….at first.

Fortunately for us, the Library of Virginia (with money from the Gates Foundation) had contracted a consultant to assist several libraries in the state suffering from inadequate bandwidth problems.  The consultant had visited our library system in July 2011, just before my vacation.  In his report, he strongly suggested if we could not afford to increase our bandwidth, that instead we implement a bandwidth equalizing tool, specifically recommending NetEqualizer by name.  After careful consideration, I decided to spend my entire IT budget to  purchase a NetEqualizer.

Of all the purchases I have made for IT in my 19 years here at Handley Regional, the NetEqualizer was perhaps my best decision ever.Sara Holloway, Librarian
Handley Regional Library

We installed the NetEqualizer in late August 2011 at our branch which hosts our data, web and email servers.   It was very easy to configure and install.  Almost immediately, staff at all three branches noticed an increase of speed in our Circulation and Cataloging programs.  I tweaked the NetEqualizer configuration to prevent bandwidth hogs and to allow some breathing room in the network so our ILS processes could access our servers more easily.  I am still learning how to interpret all the data provided by ntop, but what I do understand has helped me to stop some unwanted network traffic, which has further increased the available bandwidth.

Of all the purchases I have made for IT in my 19 years here at Handley Regional, the NetEqualizer was perhaps my best decision ever.  I am thankful to the consultant who did some research to find this product and recommend it.  While it doesn’t solve our fundamental problem of inadequate bandwidth, it has been a lifesaver in keeping essential ILS functions operating.  Thanks, NetEqualizer!

NetGladiator: A Layer 7 Shaper in Sheep’s Clothing


When explaining our NetGladiator technology the other day, a customer was very intrigued with our Layer 7 engine. He likened it to a caged tiger under the hood, gobbling up and spitting out data packets with the speed and cunning of the world’s most powerful feline.

He was surprised to see this level of capability in equipment offered at our prices.  He was impressed with the speed attained for the price point of our solution (more on this later in the article)…

In order to create a rock-solid IPS (Intrusion Prevention System), capable of handling network speeds of up to 1 gigabit with standard Intel hardware, we had to devise a technology breakthrough in Layer 7 processing. Existing technologies were just too slow to keep up with network speed expectations.

In order to support higher speeds, most vendors use semi-custom chip sets and a technology called “ASIC“. This works well but is very expensive to manufacture.

How do typical Layer 7 engines work?

Our IPS story starts with our old Layer 7 engine. It was sitting idle on our NetEqualizer product. We had shelved it when we got away from from Layer 7 shaping in favor of Equalizing technology, which is a superior solution for traffic shaping.  However, when we decided to move ahead with our new IPS this year, we realized we needed a fast-class analysis engine, one that could look at all data packets in real time. Our existing Layer 7 shaper only analyzed headers because that was adequate for its previous mission (detecting P2P streams).  For our new IPS system, we needed a solution that could do a deep dive into the data packets.  The IPS mission requires that you look at all the data – every packet crossing into a customer network.

The first step was to revamp the older engine and configure it to look at every packet. The results were disappointing.  With the load of analyzing every packet, we could not get throughput any higher than about 20 megabits, far short of our goal of 1 gigabit.

What do we do differently with our updated Layer 7 engine?

Necessity is the mother of invention, and so we invented a better Layer 7 engine.

The key was to take advantage of multiple processors for analysis of data without delaying data packets. The way the old technology worked was that it would intercept a data packet on a data link, hold it, analyze it for P2P patterns, and then send it on.  With this method, as packets come faster and faster you end up not having enough CPU time to do the analysis and still send the packet on without adding latency.  Many customers find this out the hard way when they update their data speeds from older slower T1 technology.  Typical analysis engines on affordable routers and firewalls often just can’t keep up with line speeds.

What we did was take advantage of a utility in the Linux Kernel called “clone skb”.  This allows you to make a temporary copy of the data packet without the overhead of copying.  More importantly, it allows us to send the packet on without delay and do the analysis within a millisecond (not quite line speed, but fast enough to stop an intruder).

We then combined the cloning with a new technology in the Linux kernel called Kernel Threading.  This is different than the technology that large multi-threaded HTTP servers use because it happens at the kernel level, and we do not have to copy the packet up to some higher-level server for analysis. Copying a packet for analysis is a huge bottleneck and very time-consuming.

What were our Results?

With kernel threading, cloning, and a high-end Intel SMP processor, we can make use of 16 CPU’s doing packet analysis at the same time and we now have attained speeds close to our 1 gigabit target.

When we developed our bandwidth shaping technology in 2003/2004, we leveraged technology innovation to create a superior bandwidth control appliance (read our NetEqualizer Story).  With the NetGladiator IPS, we have once again leveraged technology innovation to enable us to provide an intrusion prevention system at a very compelling price (register to get our price list), hence our customer’s remark about great speed for the price.

What other benefits does our low cost, high-speed layer 7 engine allow for? Is it just for IPS?

The sky is the limit here.  Any type of pattern you want to look at in real-time can now be done at one tenth (1/10th) the cost of the ASIC class of shapers.  Although we are not a fan of unauthorized intrusion into private data of the public Internet (we support Net Neutrality), there are hundreds of other uses which can be configured with our engine.

Some that we might consider in the future include:

- Spam filtering
- Unwanted protocols in your business
- Content blocking
- Keyword spotting

If you are interested in testing and experimenting in any of these areas with our raw technology, feel free to contact us ips@netgladiator.net.

Case Study: A Simple Solution to Relieve Congestion on Your MPLS Network


Summary: In the last few months, we have set up several NetEqualizer systems on hub and spoke MPLS networks. Our solution is very cost effective because it differs from many TOS/Compression-based WAN optimization products that require multiple pieces of hardware.  Normally, for WAN optimization, a device is placed at the HUB and a partner device is placed at each remote location. With the NetEqualizer technology, we have been able to simply and elegantly solve contention issues with a single device at the central hub.

The problem:

A customer has a hub and spoke MPLS network where remote sites get their public Internet and corporate data by coming in on a spoke to a central site.  Although the network at the host site has plenty of bandwidth, the spokes have a fixed allocation over the MPLS and are experiencing contention issues (e.g. slow response times to corporate sales data, etc.).

The solution:

By placing a NetEqualizer at a central location, so that all the remote spokes come in through the NetEqualizer, we are able to sense when a remote spoke has reached its contention level. We then perform prioritization on all the competing applications and user streams coming in over the congested link.

Why it works:

QoS and priority is really quite simple: it is always the case where some large selfish application is dominating a shared link. The NetEqualizer is able to spot these selfish applications and scale them back using a technique called Equalizing. QoS and priority are just a matter of taking away bandwidth from somebody else. See our related article: QOS is a matter of sacrifice.

Okay, but how does it really work?

How does NetEqualizer solve the congested MPLS link issue?

The NetEqualizer solution, which is completely compatible with MPLS, works by taking advantage of the natural inclination of applications to back off when artificially restrained. We’ll get back to this key point in a moment.

NetEqualizer will adjust selfish application streams by adding latency, forcing them to back off and allow potentially starved data applications to establish communications – thus eliminating any disruption.

Once you have determined the peak capacity of an MPLS spoke (if you don’t know for sure it can be determined empirically through busy hour observation), you then tell the centralized NetEqualizer the throughput of the spoke through its defined subnet range or VLAN identification tag. This tells the NetEqualizer to kick into gear when that upper limit on the spoke is reached.

Once configured, the NetEqualizer constantly (every second) measures the total aggregate bandwidth throughput traversing every spoke on your network. If it senses the upper limit is being reached, NetEqualizer will then isolate the dominating flows and encourage them to back off.

Each connection between a user on your network and the Internet constitutes a traffic flow. Flows vary widely from short dynamic bursts, which occur, for example, when searching a small Web site, to large persistent flows, as when performing peer-to-peer file sharing or downloading a large file.

By keeping track of every flow going through each MPLS spoke, the NetEqualizer can make a determination of which ones are getting an unequal share of bandwidth and thus crowding out flows from weaker applications.

NetEqualizer determines detrimental flows from normal ones by taking the following questions into consideration:

  1. How persistent is the flow?
  2. How many active flows are there?
  3. How long has the flow been active?
  4. How much total congestion is currently on the link?
  5. How much bandwidth is the flow using relative to the link size?

Once the answers to these questions are known, NetEqualizer will adjust offending flows by adding latency, forcing them to back off and allow potentially starved applications to establish communications – thus eliminating any disruption. Selfish Applications with more aggressive bandwidth needs will be throttled back during peak contention. This is done automatically by the NetEqualizer, without requiring any additional programming by administrators.

The key to making this happen over an MPLS link relies on the fact that if you slow a down a selfish application it will back off. This can be done via the NetEqualizer without any changes to the topology of your MPLS network, since the throttling is done independent of the network.

Questions and Answers

How do you know congestion is caused by a heavy stream?

We have years of experience optimizing networks with this technology. It is safe to say that on any congested network, roughly five percent of users are responsible for 80 percent of Internet traffic. This seems to be a law of Internet usage.2

Can certain applications be given priority?

NetEqualizer can give priority by IP address, for video streams, and in its default mode it naturally gives priority to VoIP, thus addressing a common need for commercial operators.

———————————————————————————————————————————————–

2Randy Barrett, “Putting the Squeeze on Internet Hogs: How Operators Deal with Their Greediest Users.” Multichannel News. 7 Mar. 2007. Retrieved 1 Aug. 2007 http://www.multichannel.com/article/CA6439454.html

Ten Things You Can Do With Our $999 Bandwidth Controller


Why are we doing this?

In the last few years, bulk bandwidth prices have plummeted. The fundamentals for managing bandwidth have also changed. Many of our smaller customers, businesses with 50 to 300 employees, are upgrading their old 10 megabit circuits with 50 Megabit  links at no extra cost. There seems to be some sort of bandwidth fire sale going on…

Is there a catch?

The only restriction on the Lite unit (when compared to the NE2000) is the number of users it can handle at one time. It is designed for smaller networks. It has all the features and support of the higher-end NE2000. For those familiar with our full-featured product, you do not lose anything.

Here are ten things you can still do with our $999 Bandwidth Controller

1) Provide priority for VOIP and Skype on an MPLS link.

2) Full use of Bandwidth Pools. This is our bandwidth restriction by subnet feature and can be used to ease congestion on remote Access Points.

3) Implement bandwidth restrictions by quota.

4) Have full graphical reporting via NTOP reporting integration.

5) Automated priority via equalizing for low-bandwidth activities such as web browsing, using Citrix terminal emulation, and web applications (database queries).

6) Priority for selected video stations.

7) Basic Rate limits by IP, or MAC address.

8) Limit P2P traffic.

9) Automatically email customers on bandwidth overages.

10) Sleep well at night knowing your network will run smoothly during peak usage.

Are Bandwidth Controllers still relevant?

Dirt cheap bandwidth upgrades are good for consumers, but not for expensive bandwidth controllers on the market. For some products in excess of  $50,000, this might be the beginning of the end. We are fortunate to have built a lean company with low overhead. We rely mostly on a manufacturer-direct market channel, and this is greatly reduces our cost of sale. From experience, we know that even with higher bandwidth amounts, letting your customers run wide-open is still going to lead to trouble in the form of congested links and brownouts. 

As bandwidth costs drop, the Bandwidth Controller component of your network is not going to go away, but it must also make sense in terms of cost and ease of use. The next generation bandwidth controller must be full-featured while also competing with lower bandwidth prices. With our new low-end models, we will continue to make the purchase of our equipment a “no brainer” in value offered for your dollar spent.

There is nothing like our Lite Unit on the market delivered with support and this feature set at this price point. Read more about the features and specifications of our NetEqualizer Lite in our  NetEqualizer Lite Data Sheet.

APconnections Celebrates New NetEqualizer Lite with Introductory Pricing


Editor’s Note:  This is a copy of a press release that went out on May 15th, 2012.  Enjoy!

Lafayette, Colorado – May 15, 2012 – APconnections, an innovation-driven technology company that delivers best-in-class network traffic management solutions, is celebrating the expansion of its NetEqualizer Lite product line by offering special pricing for a limited time.

NetEqualizer’s VP of Sales and Business Development, Joe D’Esopo is excited to announce “To make it easy for you to try the new NetEqualizer Lite, for a limited time we are offering the NetEqualizer Lite-10 at introductory pricing of just $999 for the unit, our Lite-20 at $1,100, and our Lite-50 at $1,400.  These are incredible deals for the value you will receive; we believe unmatched today in our industry.”

We have upgraded our base technology for the NetEqualizer Lite, our entry-level bandwidth-shaping appliance.  Our new Lite still retains a small form-factor, which sets it apart, and makes it ideal for implementation in the Field, but now has enhanced CPU and memory. This enables us to include robust graphical reporting like in our other product lines, and also to support additional bandwidth license levels.

The Lite is geared towards smaller networks with less than 350 users, is available in three license levels, and is field-upgradable across them: our Lite-10 runs on networks up to 10Mbps and up to 150 users ($999), our Lite-20 (20Mbps and 200 users for $1,100), and Lite-50 (50Mbps and 350 users for $1,400).  See our NetEqualizer Price List for complete details.  One year renewable NetEqualizer Software & Support (NSS) and NetEqualizer Hardware Warranties (NHW) are offered.

Like all of our bandwidth shapers, the NetEqualizer Lite is a plug-n-play, low maintenance solution that is quick and easy to set-up, typically taking one hour or less.  QoS is implemented via behavior-based bandwidth shaping, “equalizing”, giving priority to latency-sensitive applications, such as VoIP, web browsing, chat and e-mail over large file downloads and video that can clog your Internet pipe.

About APconnections:  APconnections is based in Lafayette, Colorado, USA.  We released our first commercial offering in July 2003, and since then thousands of customers all over the world have put our products into service.  Today, our flexible and scalable solutions can be found in over 4,000 installations in many types of public and private organizations of all sizes across the globe, including: Fortune 500 companies, major universities, K-12 schools, and Internet providers on six (6) continents.  To learn more, contact us at sales@apconnections.net.

Contact: Sandy McGregor
Director, Marketing
APconnections, Inc.
303.997.1300
sandy@apconnections.net

Why is the Internet Access in My Hotel So Slow?


The last several times I have stayed in Ireland and London, my wireless Internet became so horrific in the evening hours that I ended up walking down the street to work at the local Internet cafe. I’ll admit that hotel Internet service is hit or miss – sometimes it is fine , and other times it is terrible. Why does this happen?

To start to understand why slow Internet service persists at many hotels you must understand the business model.

Most hotel chains are run by Real Estate and Management type companies, they do not know the intricacies of wireless networks any more than they can fix a broken U-Joint on the hotel airport van. Hence, they hire out their IT – both for implementation and design consulting. The marching orders to their IT consultant is usually to build a system that generates revenue for the hotel. How can we charge for this service? The big cash cow for the hotel industry used to be the phone system, and then with advent of cell phones that went away. Then it was On-Demand Movies (mostly porn) , and that is fading fast. Competing on great free Internet service between operators has not been a priority. However, even with concessions to this model of business, there is no reason why it cannot be solved.

There are a multitude of reasons that Internet service can gridlock in a hotel, sometimes it is wireless interference, but by far the most common reason is too many users trying to watch video during peak times (maybe a direct result of pay on demand movies). When this happens you get the rolling brown out. The service works for 30 seconds or so, duping  you into thinking you can send an e-mail or finish a transaction; but just you as you submit your request, you notice everything is stuck, with no progress messages in the lower corner of your browser. And then, you get an HTTP time out. Wait perhaps 30 seconds, and all of a sudden things clear up and seem normal only to repeat again .

The simple solution for this gridlock problem is to use a dynamic fairness device such as our NetEqualizer. Many operators take the first step in bandwidth control and use their routers to enforcing fixed rate limits per customer, however this will  only provide some temporary relief and will not work in many cases.

The next time you experience the rolling brown out, send the hotel a link to this blog article (if you can get the email out). The  hotels that we have implemented our solution at are doing cartwheels down the street and we’d be happy to share their stories with anybody who inquires.

What Does it Cost You Per Mbs for Bandwidth Shaping?


Sometimes by using a cost metric you can distill a relatively complicated thing down to a simple number for comparison. For example, we can compare housing costs by Dollars Per Square Foot or the fuel efficiency of cars by using the Miles Per Gallon (MPG) metric.  There are a number of factors that go into buying a house, or a car, and a compelling cost metric like those above may be one factor.   Nevertheless, if you decide to buy something that is more expensive to operate than a less expensive alternative, you are probably aware of the cost differences and justify those with some good reasons.

Clearly this makes sense for bandwidth shaping now more than ever, because the cost of bandwidth continues to decline and as the cost of bandwidth declines, the cost of shaping the bandwidth should decline as well.  After all, it wouldn’t be logical to spend a lot of money to manage a resource that’s declining in value.

With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to looking at bandwidth shaping on a cost per Mbs basis. Alternatively, I could look at bandwidth shaping on a cost per user basis, but that metric fails to capture the declining cost of a Mbs of bandwidth. So, cost per Mbs it is.

As we’ve pointed out before in previous articles, there are two kinds of costs that are typically associated with bandwidth shapers:

1) Upfront costs (these are for the equipment and setup)

2) Ongoing costs (these are for annual renewals, upgrades, license updates, labor for maintenance, etc…)

Upfront, or equipment costs, are usually pretty easy to get.  You just call the vendor and ask for the price of their product (maybe not so easy in some cases).  In the case of the NetEqualizer, you don’t even have to do that – we publish our prices here.

With the NetEqualizer, setup time is normally less than an hour and is thus negligible, so we’ll just divide the unit price by the throughput level, and here’s the result:

I think this is what you would expect to see.

For ongoing costs you would need to add all the mandatory per year costs and divide by throughput, and the metric would be an ongoing “yearly” per Mbs cost.

Again, if we take the NetEqualizer as an example, the ongoing costs are almost zero.  This is because it’s a turn-key appliance and it requires no time from the customer for bandwidth analysis, nor does it require any policy setup/maintenance to effectively run (it doesn’t use policies). In fact, it’s a true zero maintenance product and that yields zero labor costs. Besides no labor, there’s no updates or licenses required (an optional service contract is available if you want ongoing access to technical support, or software upgrades).

Frankly, it’s not worth the effort of graphing this one. The ongoing cost of a NetEqualizer Support Agreement ranges from $29 (dollars) – $.20 (cents) per Mbs per year. Yet, this isn’t the case for many other products and this number should be evaluated carefully. In fact, in some cases the ongoing costs of some products exceed the upfront cost of a new NetEqualizer!

Again, it may not be the case that the lowest cost per Mbs of bandwidth shaping is the best solution for you – but, if it’s not, you should have some good reasons.

If you shape bandwidth now, what is your cost per Mbs of bandwidth shaping? We’d be interested to know.

If your ongoing costs are higher than the upfront costs of a new NetEqualizer and you’re open to a discussion, you should drop us a note at sales@apconnections.net.

Is Equalizing Technology the Same as Bandwidth Fairness?


Editors Note:

The following was posted in a popular forum in response to the assumption that the NetEqualizer is a simple fairness engine. We can certainly understand how our technology can be typecast in the same bucket with simple fairness techniques; however, equalizing provides a much more sophisticated solution as the poster describes in detail below.

You have stated your reservations, but I am still going to have to recommend the NetEqualizer. Carving up the bandwidth equally will mean that the user perception of the Internet connection will be poor even when you have bandwidth to spare. It makes more sense to have a device that can maximize the user’s perception of a connection. Here are some example scenarios.

NetEQ when utilization is low, and it is not doing anything:
User perception of Skype like services: Good
User perception of Netflix like services: Good
User perception of large file downloads: Good
User perception of “ajaxie” webpages that constantly update some doodad on the page: Good
User perception of games: Good

Equally allocated bandwidth when utilization is low:
User perception of Skype like services: OK as long as the user is not doing anything else.
User perception of Netflix like services: OK as long as long as the user is not doing anything else.
User perception of large file downloads: Slow all of the time regardless of where the user is downloading the file from.
User perception of “ajaxie” webpages that constantly update some doodad on the page: OK
User perception of games: OK as long as the user is not doing anything else. That is until the game needs to download custom content from a server, then the user has to wait to enter the next round because of the hard rate limit.

NetEQ when utilization is high and penalizing the top flows:
User perception of Skype like services: Good
User perception of Netflix like services: Good – The caching bar at the bottom should be slightly delayed, but the video shouldn’t skip. The user is unlikely to notice.
User perception of large file downloads: Good – The file is delayed a bit, but will still download relatively quickly compared to a hard bandwidth cap. The user is unlikely to notice.
User perception of “ajaxie” webpages that constantly update some doodad on the page: Good
User perception of games: Good downloading content between rounds might be a tiny bit slower, but fast compared to a hard rate limit.

Equally allocated bandwidth when utilization is high:
User perception of Skype like services: OK as long as the user is not doing anything else.
User perception of Netflix like services: OK as long as long as the user is not doing anything else.
User perception of large file downloads: Slow all of the time regardless of where the user is downloading the file from.
User perception of “ajaxie” webpages that constantly update some doodad on the page: OK as long as the user is not doing anything else.
User perception of games: OK as long as the user is not doing anything else. That is until the game needs to download custom content from a server, then the user has to wait to enter the next round because of the hard rate limit.

As far as the P2P thing is concerned. While I too realized that theoretically P2P would be favored, in practice it wasn’t really noticeable.  If you wish, you can use connection limits to deal with this.

One last thing to note:  On Obama’s inauguration day, the NetEQ at our University was able to tame the ridiculous number of live streams of the event without me intervening to change settings.  The only problems reported turned out to be bandwidth problems on the other end.

NetEqualizer News: September 2011


NetEqualizer News

September 2011  

Greetings! 

Enjoy another issue of NetEqualizer News! This month, we discuss two new features that will be available in the Fall 2011 Software Update (IPv6 visibility and ToS priority handling), as well as introduce a new and exciting way to report on and monitor your NetEqualizer data. As always, feel free to pass this along to others who might be interested in NetEqualizer News.

In This Issue:
:: IPv6 Visibility
:: ToS Priority Feature
:: Dynamic Reporting With The NetEqualizer
:: Best Of The Blog

 Our Website         Contact Us         NetEqualizer Demo         Price List     Join Our Mailing List

 Coming This Fall:
IPv6 Visibility 

As part of the Fall 2011 Software Update, the NetEqualizer will provide enhanced visibility to IPv6 traffic. This feature will help our customers that are experimenting with IPv6/IPv4 dual stacks, as they start to see IPv6 Internet traffic on their networks.

As you may be aware, the NetEqualizer today currently supports passing IPv6 traffic; we are now adding visibility to IPv6 traffic.

Do not worry if you are not in dual stack mode yet, as customers are reporting only tiny amounts of IPv6 Internet traffic at this point.  Industry tests to-date show that only about 0.0026% (2 thousands of a percent!) of Internet traffic is IPv6.

Nonetheless, NetEqualizer is preparing for the eventual move by gradually building in IPv6 visibility and functionality in upcoming releases.

The enhanced IPv6 capabilities that we are implementing in the NetEqualizer this Fall include:

  • Providing you with visibility to current IPv6 connections so that you to determine if you need to start shaping IPv6 traffic.
  • Logging the IPv6 traffic so that you can obtain a historical snapshot to help in your IPv6 planning efforts.

Building in these capabilities now will help make the transition down the road that much easier for both us and our customers.

To read more about IPv6, and the debate surrounding it, check out our NetEqualizer News blog articles on the subject:

Ten Things You Should Know About IPv6

Do We Really Need IPv6 and When

As always, the Fall 2011 Software Update will be available at no charge to customers with valid NetEqualizer Software Subscriptions (NSS).

For more information on the NetEqualizer or the upcoming Fall 2011 Software Update, visit our blog or contact us via email: sales or toll-free U.S.(800-918-2763), worldwide (303) 997-1300 x. 103.

Coming This Fall:   

ToS Priority Feature

In addition to IPv6 visibility, our upcoming Fall 2011 Software Update will have the ability to honor ToS-bit priority on any stream coming into your network. The NetEqualizer methodology is the only optimization device that can provide QoS in both directions of a voice or video call over an Internet link.

For additional details and a breakdown of the technology, check out our recent blog article:

NetEqualizer Provides Unique Low-Cost Way To Send Your Priority Traffic Over The Internet an article from our blog

As always, the Fall 2011 Software Update will be available at no charge to customers with valid NetEqualizer Software Subscriptions (NSS).

For more information on the NetEqualizer or the upcoming release, visit our blog or contact us via email to sales or call toll-free U.S.(800-918-2763), worldwide (303) 997-1300 x. 103.

Dynamic Reporting  

with the NetEqualizer  

Have you ever wanted an inexpensive real-time bandwidth reporting tool?  

Well, you’ve found it.

Dynamic Reporting

The NetEqualizer can now easily integrate with Excel to deliver powerful monitoring and reporting of data – all in near real time. The tutorial linked to below outlines just one of the ways the NetEqualizer can work with Excel in this way. Feel free to implement the solution described, or build upon it to create your own unique reporting tool. The possibilities are infinite!

Dynamic Reporting With The NetEqualizer

an article from our blog.

Best Of The Blog

 

The Story of NetEqualizer  

by Art Reisman – CTO – NetEqualizer  

 

The following story details the start of NetEqualizer as a product and as a company. It is an interesting story that should prove inspirational for any entrepreneurial mind looking to start a business.

In the spring of 2002, I was a systems engineer at Bell Labs in charge of architecting Conversant – an innovative speech-processing product. Revenue kept falling quarter by quarter, and meanwhile upper management seemed to only be capable of providing material for Dilbert cartoons, or perhaps helping to fine-tune the script for The Office. It was so depressing that I could not even read Dilbert anymore – those cartoons are not as amusing when you are living them every day.

Starting in the year 2000, and continuing every couple of months, there was a layoff somewhere in the company (which was Avaya at the time). Our specific business unit would get hit every six months or so. It was like living in a hospice facility. You did not want to get to know anybody too well because you would be tagged with the guilt of still having a job should they get canned next week. The product I worked on existed only as a cash cow to be milked for profit, while upper management looked to purchase a replacement. I can’t say I blamed them; our engineering expertise was so eroded by then that it would have been a futile effort to try and continue to grow and develop the product. Mercifully, I was laid off in June of 2003.

Prior to my pink slip, I had been fiddling with an idea that a friend of mine, Paul Harris, had come up with. His idea was to run a local wireless ISP. This initially doomed idea spawned from an article in the local newspaper about a guy up in Aspen, CO that was beaming wireless Internet around town using a Pringles canI am not making this up.

 

To keep reading, click here or download the full story…

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Fall is coming…   

The transition from summer to fall in Colorado is one of the most beautiful times of the year. The temperatures return to bearable, and the sun is out late enough for an after-work hike or an evening picnic. Experiencing this phenomenal weather is one of the many reasons we live, work, and play in Colorful Colorado.

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The Story of NetEqualizer


By Art Reisman

CTO www.netequalizer.com

In the spring of 2002, I was a systems engineer at Bell Labs in charge of architecting Conversant – an innovative speech-processing product. Revenue kept falling quarter by quarter, and meanwhile upper management seemed to only be capable of providing material for Dilbert cartoons, or perhaps helping to fine-tune the script for The Office. It was so depressing that I could not even read Dilbert anymore – those cartoons are not as amusing when you are living them every day.

Starting in the year 2000, and continuing every couple of months, there was a layoff somewhere in the company (which was Avaya at the time). Our specific business unit would get hit every six months or so. It was like living in a hospice facility. You did not want to get to know anybody too well because you would be tagged with the guilt of still having a job should they get canned next week. The product I worked on existed only as a cash cow to be milked for profit, while upper management looked to purchase a replacement. I can’t say I blamed them; our engineering expertise was so eroded by then that it would have been a futile effort to try and continue to grow and develop the product.

Mercifully, I was laid off in June of 2003.

Prior to my pink slip, I had been fiddling with an idea that a friend of mine, Paul Harris, had come up with. His idea was to run a local wireless ISP. This initially doomed idea spawned from an article in the local newspaper about a guy up in Aspen, CO that was beaming wireless Internet around town using a Pringles can – I am not making this up. Our validation consisted of Paul rigging up a Pringles can antenna, attaching it to his laptop’s wireless card (we had external cards for wireless access at the time), and then driving a block from his house and logging in to his home Internet. Amazing!

The next day, while waiting around for the layoff notices, we hatched a plan to see if we could set up a tiny ISP from my neighborhood in northern Lafayette, CO. I lived in a fairly dense development of single-family homes, and despite many of my neighbors working in the tech industry, all we could get in our area was dial-up Internet. Demand was high for something faster.

So, I arranged to get a 1/2 T1 line to my house at the rate of about $1,500 per month, with the idea that I could resell the service to my neighbors. Our take rate for service appeared to be everybody I talked to. And so, Paul climbed onto the roof and set up some kind of pole attached to the top of the chimney, with a wire running down into the attic where we had a $30 Linksys AP. The top of my roof gave us a line-of-sight to 30 or 40 other rooftops in the area. We started selling service right away.

In the meantime, I started running some numbers in my head about how well this 1/2 T1 line would hold up. It seemed like every potential customer I talked to planned on downloading the Library of Congress, and I was afraid of potential gridlock. I had seen gridlock many times on the network at the office – usually when we were beating the crap out if it with all the geeky things we experimented on at Bell Labs.

We finally hooked up a couple of houses in late March, and by late April the trees in the area leafed out and blocked our signal. Subsequently, the neighbors got annoyed and stopped paying. Most 802.11 frequencies do not travel well through trees. I was also having real doubts about our ability to make back the cost of the T1 service, especially with the threat of gridlock looming once more people came online – not to mention the line-of-sight being blocked by the trees.

Being laid off was a blessing in disguise. Leaving Bell Labs was not a step I would have taken on my own. Not only did I have three kids, a mortgage, and the net worth of a lawnmower, my marketable technical skills had lapsed significantly over the past four years. Our company had done almost zero cutting-edge R&D in that time. How was I going to explain that void of meaningful, progressive work on my resume? It was a scary realization.

Rather than complain about it, I decided to learn some new skills, and the best way to do that is to give yourself a project. I decided to spend some time trying to figure out a way to handle the potential saturation on our T1 line. I conjured up my initial solution from my computer science background. In any traditional operating systems’ course, there is always a lesson discussing how a computer divvies up its resources. Back in the old days, when computers were very expensive, companies with computer work would lease time on a shared computer to run a “job”. Computing centers at the time were either separate companies, or charge-back centers in larger companies that could afford a mainframe. A job was the term used for your computer program. The actual computer code was punched out on cards. The computer operator would take your stack of cards from behind a cage in a special room and run them through the machine. Many operators were arrogant jerks that belittled you when your job kicked out with an error, or if it ran too long and other jobs were waiting. Eventually computer jobs evolved so they could be submitted remotely from a terminal, and the position of the operator faded away. Even without the operator, computers were still very expensive, and there were always more jobs to run than the amount of leased time on the computer. This sounds a lot like a congested Internet pipe, right?

The solution for computers with limited resources was a specialized program called an operating system.  Operating systems decided what jobs could run, and how much time they would get, before getting furloughed. During busy times, the operating system would temporarily kick larger jobs out and make them wait before letting them back in. The more time they used before completion, the lower their priority, and the longer they would wait for their turn.

My idea – and the key to controlling congestion on an Internet pipe – was based on adapting the proven OS scheduling methodology used to prevent gridlock on a computer and apply it to another limited resource – bandwidth on an Internet link. But, I wasn’t quite sure how to accomplish this yet.

Kevin Kennedy was a very respected technical manager during my early days at Bell Labs in Columbus, Ohio. Kevin left shortly after I came on board, and eventually rose up to be John Chambers’ number two at Cisco. Kevin helped start a division at Cisco which allowed a group of engineers to migrate over and work with him – many of whom were friends of mine from Bell Labs. I got on the phone and consulted a few of them on how Cisco dealt with congestion on their network. I wondered if they had anything smart and automated, and the answer I got was “yes, sort of.” There was some newfangled way to program their IOS operating system, but nothing was fully automated. That was all I needed to hear. It seemed I had found a new niche, and I set out to make a little box that you plugged into a WAN or Internet port that would automatically relieve congestion and not require any internal knowledge of routers and complex customizations.

In order to make an automated fairness engine, I would need to be able to tap into the traffic on an Internet link. So I started looking at the Linux kernel source code and spent several weeks reading about what was out there. Reading source code is like building a roadmap in your head. Slowly over time neurons start to figure it out – much the same way a London Taxi driver learns their way around thousands of little streets with some of them being dead ends. I eventually stumbled into the Linux bridge code. The Linux bridge code allows anybody with a simple laptop and two Ethernet cards to build an Ethernet bridge. Although an Ethernet bridge was not really related in function to my product idea, it solved all of the upfront work I would need to do to break into an Internet connection to examine data streams and then reset their priorities on the fly as necessary – all this with complete transparency to the network.

As usual, the mechanics of putting the concept in my head into working code was a bit painful and arduous. I am not the most adept when it comes to using code syntax and wandering my way around kernel code. A good working knowledge of building tools, compiling tools, and legacy Linux source code is required to make anything work in the Linux kernel. The problem was that I couldn’t stand those details. I hated them and would have gladly paid somebody else to implement my idea, but I had absolutely no money. Building and coding in the Linux kernel is like reading a book you hate where the chapters and plot are totally scrambled. But, having done it many times, I slogged through, and out the other side appeared the Linux Bandwidth Arbitrator (LBA) – a set of utilities and computer programs made for Linux open source that would automatically take a Linux bridge and start applying fairness rules.

Once I had the tool working in my small home test lab, I started talking about it on a couple of Linux forums. I needed a real network to test it on because I had no experience running a network. My engineering background up until now had been working with firmware on proprietary telecommunication products. I had no idea how my idea would perform in the wild.

Eventually, as a result of one of my Linux forum posts, a call came in from a network administrator and Linux enthusiast named Eric who ran a network for a school district in the Pacific Northwest. I thought I had hit the big time. He was a real person with a real network with a real problem. I helped him load up a box with our tool set in his home office for testing. Eventually, we got it up and running on his district network with mixed results. This experiment, although inconclusive, got some serious kinks worked out with my assumptions.

I went back to the Linux forums with my newfound knowledge. I learned of a site called “freshmeat.net” where one could post free software for commercial use. The response was way more than I expected, perhaps a thousand hits or so in the first week. However, the product was not easy to build from scratch and most hits were just curious seekers of free tools. Very few users had built a Linux kernel, let alone had the skill set to build a Linux Bandwidth Arbitrator from my instructions. But, it only took one qualified candidate to further validate the concept.

This person turned out to be an IT administrator from a state college in Georgia. He loaded our system up after a few questions, and the next thing I knew I got an e-mail that went something like this:

“Since we installed the LBA, all of our congestion has ceased, and the utilization on our main Internet trunk is 20% less. The students are very happy!”

I have heard this type of testimonial many times since, but I was in total disbelief with this first one. It was on a significant network with significant results! Did it really work, or was this guy just yanking my chain? No. It was real, and it really did work!

I was broke and ecstatic at the same time. The Universe sends you these little messages that you are on the right track just when you need them. To me, this e-mail was akin to 50,000 people in a stadium cheering for you. Queue the Rocky music.

Our following on freshmeat.net grew and grew. We broke into the Top 100 projects, which is like making it to Hollywood Week on American Idol to tech geeks, and then broke the Top 50 or so in their rankings. This was really quite amazing because most of the software utilities on freshmeat.net were consumer-based utilities, which have a much broader audience. The only projects with higher rankings in a business-to-business utility product (like the LBA) were utilities like SQL Dansguard, and other very well-known projects.

Shortly after going live on freshmeat.net, I started collaborating add-ons to the LBA utility with Steve Wagor (now my partner at APconnections). He was previously working as a DBA, webmaster, and jack-of-all-trades for a company that built websites for realtors in the southwestern United States. We were getting about one request a week to help install the LBA in a customer network. Steve got the idea to make a self-booting CD that could run on any standard PC with a couple of LAN cards. In August of 2004, we started selling them. Our only current channel was freshmeat.net, which allowed us to offer a purchasable CD as long as we offered the freeware version too.* We sold fifteen CD’s that first month. The only bad news was that we were working for about $3.00 per hour. There were too many variables on the customer-loaded systems to be as efficient as we needed to be.  Also, many of the customers loading the free CD were as broke as we were and not able to pay for our expertise.

* As an interesting side note, we also had a free trial version that ran for about two hours that could be converted to the commercial version with a key. The idea was to let people try it, prove it worked, and then send them the permanent key when they paid. Genius, we thought. However, we soon realized there were thousands of small Internet cafes around the world that would run the thing for two hours and then reboot. They were getting congestion control and free consulting from us. So in countries where the power goes out once a day anyway, no one is bothered by a sixty-second Internet outage.

As word got out that the NetEqualizer worked well, we were able to formalize the commercial version and started bundling everything into our own manufacturing and shipping package from the United States. This eliminated all the free consulting work on the demo systems, and also ensured a uniform configuration that we could support.

Today NetEqualizer has become an adjective brand name in growing circles.

Some humble facts:

NetEqualizer is a multi-million dollar company.

NetEqualizer’s have over ten million users going through them on six continents.

We serve many unique locales in addition to the world’s largest population centers. Some of the more interesting places are:

  • Malta
  • The Seychelles Islands
  • The Northern Slopes of Alaska
  • Iceland
  • Barbados
  • Guantanamo Bay
  • The Yukon Territory
  • The Afghan-American Embassy
  • The United States Olympic Training Center
  • Multiple NBA arenas
  • Yellowstone National Park

Stay tuned for Part II, “From Startup to Multi-National, Multi-Million Dollar Enterprise.”

Meanwhile, check out these related articles:

NetEqualizer Brand Becoming an Eponym for Fairness and Net-Neutrality Techniques

Building a Software Company from Scratch” – Adapted from an entrepreneur.org article.

Integrating NetEqualizer with Active Directory


By Art Reisman

CTO www.netequalizer.com

I have to admit, that when I see this question posed to one of our sales engineers, I realize our mission of distributing a turn key bandwidth controller will always require a context switch for potential new customers.

It’s not that we can’t tie into Active Directory, we have. The point is that our solution has already solved the customer issue of bandwidth congestion in a more efficient way than divvying up bandwidth per user based on a profile in Active Directory.

Equalizing is the art form of rewarding bandwidth to the real time needs of users at the appropriate time, especially during peak usage hours when bandwidth resources are stretched to their limit. The concept does take some getting used to. A few minutes spent getting comfortable with our methodology will often pay off many times over in comparison to the man hours spent tweaking and fine tuning a fixed allocation scheme.

Does our strategy potentially alienate the Microsoft Shop that depends on Active Directory for setting customized bandwidth restrictions per user ?

Yes, perhaps in some cases it does. However, as mentioned earlier, our mission has always been to solve the business problem of congestion on a network, and equalizing has proven time and again to be the most cost effective in terms of immediate results and low recurring support costs.

Why not support Active Directory integration to get in the door with a new customer ?

Occasionally, we will open up our interface in special cases and integrate with A/D or Radius, but what we have found is that there are a myriad of boundary cases that come up that must be taken care of. For example, synchronizing after a power down or maintenance cycle. Whenever two devices must talk to each other in a network sharing common data, the support and maintenance of the system can grow exponentially. The simple initial requirements of setting a rate limit per user are often met without issue. It is the follow on inevitable complexity and support that violates the nature and structure of our turn-key bandwidth controller. What is the point in adding complexity to a solution when the solution creates more work than the original problem?

See related article on the True Cost of Bandwidth Monitoring.

QoS is a Matter of Sacrifice


Usually in the first few minutes of talking to a potential customer, one of their requests will be something like “I want to give QoS (Quality of Service) to Video”, or “I want to give Quality of Service to our Blackboard application.”

The point that is often overlooked by resellers, pushing QoS solutions, is that providing QoS for one type of traffic always involves taking bandwidth away from something else.

The network hacks understand this, but for those that are not down in the trenches sometimes we must gently walk them through a scenario.

Take the following typical exchange:

Customer: I want to give our customers access to NetFlix and have that take priority over P2P.

NetEq Rep: How do you know that you have a p2p problem?

Customer: We caught a guy with Kazaa on his Laptop last year so we know they are out there.

NetEq rep (after plugging in a test system and doing some analysis): It looks like you have some scattered p2p users, but they are only about 2 percent of your traffic load. Thirty percent of your peak traffic is video. If we give priority to all your video we will have to sacrifice something, web browsing, chat, e-mail, Skype, and Internet Radio. I know this seems like quite a bit but there is nothing else out there to steal from, you see in order to give priority to video we must take away bandwidth from something else and although you have p2p, stopping it will not provide enough bandwidth to make a dent in your video appetite.

Customer (now frustrated by reality): Well I guess I will just have to tell our clients they can’t watch video all the time. I can’t make web browsing slower to support video, that will just create a new problems.

If you have an oversubscribed network, meaning too many people vying for limited Internet resources, when you implement any form of QoS, you will still end up with an oversubscribed network. QoS must rob Peter to pay Paul.

So when is QoS worth while?

QoS is a great idea if you understand who you are stealing from.

Here are some facts on using QoS to improve your Internet Connection:

Fact #1

If your QoS mechanism involves modifying packets with special instructions (ToS bits) on how it should be treated, it will only work on links where you control both ends of the circuit and everything in between.

Fact #2

Most Internet congestion is caused by incoming traffic. For data originating at your facility, you can certainly have your local router give priority to it on its way out, but you can’t set QoS bits on traffic coming into your network (we assume from a third party). Regulating outgoing traffic with ToS bits will not have any effect on incoming traffic.

Fact #3

Your public Internet provider will not treat ToS bits with any form of priority (the exception would be a contracted MPLS type network). Yes, they could, but if they did then everybody would game the system to get an advantage and they would not have much meaning anyway.

Fact #4

The next two facts address our initial question — Is QoS over the Internet possible? The answer is, yes. QoS on an Internet link is possible. We have spent the better part of seven years practicing this art form and it is not rocket science, but it does require a philosophical shift in thinking to get your arms around.

We call it “equalizing,” or behavior-based shaping, and it involves monitoring incoming and outgoing streams on your Internet link. Priority or QoS is nothing more than favoring one stream’s packets over another stream’s packets. You can accomplish priority QoS on incoming streams by queuing (slowing down) one stream over another without relying on ToS bits.

Fact #5

Surprisingly, behavior-based methods such as those used by our NetEqualizer do provide a level QoS for VoIP on the public Internet. Although you can’t tell the Internet to send your VoIP packets faster, most people don’t realize the problem with congested VoIP is due to the fact that their VoIP packets are getting crowded out by large downloads. Often, the offending downloads are initiated by their own employees or users. A good behavior-based shaper will be able to favor VoIP streams over less essential data streams without any reliance on the sending party adhering to a QoS scheme.

Please remember our initial point “providing QoS for one type of traffic always involves taking bandwidth away from something else,” and take these facts into consideration as you work on QoS for your network.

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