Silver Bullet (n.) – A simple and seemingly magical solution to a complex problem.
The amount of solutions available that have been developed to improve Quality of Service (QoS) for data traveling across a network (video, VoIP, etc.) are endless. Often, these tools appear to be simple, but seem to fall short in implementation:
Compression: Compressing files in transit helps reduce congestion by decreasing the amount of bandwidth a transfer requires. This appears to be a viable solution, but in practice, most of the large streams that tend to clog networks (high resolution media files, etc.) are already compressed. Thus, most networks won’t see much improvement in QoS when this method is used.
Layer 7 Inspection: Providing QoS to specific applications also sounds like a reasonable approach to the problem. However, most applications are increasingly utilizing encryption for transferring data, and thus determining the purpose of a network packet is a much harder problem. It also requires constant tweaking and updates to ensure the proper applications are given priority.
Type of Service: Each network packet has a flag as part of its payload that denotes its “type of service.” This flag was intended to help give QoS to packets based on their importance and purpose. This method, however, requires lots of custom router configurations and is not very reliable as far as who is able to set the flag, when, and why.
These solutions are analogous to the diet pill and weight loss products that inundate our lives on a daily basis. They are offering complex solutions to a simple problem:
Overweight? Buy this machine, watch these DVDs, take this pill.
When the real solution is:
Overweight? Eat better.
Simple solutions are what good engineering is all about, and it drives the entire philosophy behind Equalizing – the bandwidth control method implemented in our NetEqualizer. The truth is, you can accomplish 99% of your QoS needs on a fixed link SIMPLY by cranking down on the large streams of traffic. While the above approaches try to do this in various ways, nothing is easier and more hands-off than looking at the behavior of a connection relative to the available bandwidth, and subsequently throttling it as needed. No deep packet inspection, compression, or packet analysis required. No need to concern yourself with new Internet usage trends or the latest media file types. Just fair bandwidth, regardless of trunk size, for all of your users, at all times of day. When bandwidth is controlled, connection quality is allowed to be as good as possible for everyone!
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