If you went to sleep in 2005 and woke up 10 years later you would likely be surprised by some dramatic changes in technology.
- Smart cars that drive themselves are almost a reality
- The desktop PC is no longer a consumer product
- Wind farms now line the highways of rural America
- Layer 7 shaping technology is now clinging to life, crashing the financials of a several companies that bet the house on it.
What happened to layer 7?
In the early 2000’s all the rave in traffic classification was the ability to put different types of bandwidth traffic into labeled buckets and assign a priority to them. Akin to rating your food choices on a tapas menu ,network administrators enjoyed an extensive list of various traffic. Youtube, Citrix, news feeds, the list was only limited by the price and quality of the bandwidth shaper. The more expensive the traffic shaper , the more choices you had.
Starting in 2005 and continuing to this day, several forces started to work against the layer 7 paradigm.
- The price of bulk bandwidth went into a free fall, much faster than the relatively fixed cost of a bandwidth shaper. The business proposition of buying a bandwidth shaper to conserve bandwidth utilization became much tighter. Some companies that were riding high saw their stock prices collapse.
- Internet traffic became invisible and impossible to identify with the advent of encryption techniques. A traffic classifier using Layer 7, cannot see inside HTTPS or a VPN tunnel, and thus it is essentially becomes a big expensive albatross with little value as the rate of encrypted traffic increases.
- The FCC ruling toward Net Neutrality further put a damper on a portion of the Layer 7 market. For years ISPs had been using Layer 7 technology to give preferential treatment to different types of traffic.
- Cloud based services are using less complex architectures. Companies can consolidate on one simplified central bandwidth shaper, where as before they might have had several on all their various WAN links and Network segments
So where does this leave the bandwidth shaping market?
There is still some demand for layer 7 type shapers, particular in countries like China, where they attempt to control everything. However in Europe and in the US , the trend is to more basic controls that do not violate the FCC rule, cost less, and use some form intelligent based fairness rules such as:
- Quota’s , your cell phone data plan.
- Fairness based heuristics is gaining momentum, lower price point, prevents congestion without violating FCC ruling ( Equalizing).
- Basic Rate limits, your wired ISP 20 megabit plan, often implemented on a basic router and not a specialized shaping device.
- No Shaping at all, pipes are so large there is no need to ration bandwidth.
Will Shaping be around in 10 years?
Yes, consumers and businesses will always find ways to use all their bandwidth and more.
Will price points for bandwidth continue to drop ?
I am going to go against the grain here, and say bandwidth prices will flatten out in the near future. Prices over the last decade slid for several reasons which are no longer in play.
The biggest driver in price drops was the wide acceptance of wave division muliplexing on carrier lines in the 2005- present time frame. There was already a good bit of fiber in the ground but the WDM innovation caused a huge jump in capacity, with very little additional cost to providers.
The other factor was a major world-wide recession, where businesses where demand was slack.
Lastly there are no new large carriers coming on line. Competition and price wars will ease up as suppliers try to increase profits.