Creative Marketing Pushing the Limits


I just spent the evening advocating for my 90 year old mother, getting her through the bureaucracy gauntlet of a large teaching hospital.  The highlight of my evening was when I had to move my car from in front of the ER entrance, and upon my return the security guard refused to let me back into the ER.  I had essentially been evicted from the hospital.  I’ll spare you the details of the rest of tonight’s carnage as it is not really relevant for a technical product blog, but it did jar a repressed memory from when we were in early startup mode years ago, and I was trying to gain some market traction.

Flash back to early 2005, NetEqualizer was no more than a bundled open source CD selling for less than a decent television goes for these days. Our customers were mostly early adopters running on shoestring budgets.  Encouragement came in the form of feedback from customers. We were getting amazing reviews from smaller ISPs, who raved about how good our bandwidth shaping technology was.  My problem was that their enthusiasm was not translating into larger corporate customers.  In order to survive, we had to leverage our success into a higher-end market, where despite our technical success we were still an unknown commodity.

With time on my hands, and my industry expertise current on the Telco industry, I started writing small articles for trade magazines.  These vignettes were great for building a resume, but not so great at getting the NetEqualizer in front of customers.  With each passing week I would chat with the editor(s) from Ziff Davis and propose article ideas. Slowly I was becoming a respected yet starving feature writer. By necessity, entrepreneurs have to think out of the box, and I was no exception when I hatched the idea for my next article.  The conversation with my Editor went something like:

Me:  “Hey Bill, I have an idea for a new article.”

Bill: “Let’s hear it. ”

Me: “Well, there is big trade show next month in Orlando…  How about I head down there and write a new product review feature for your magazine? I’ll walk the floor and impromptu interview various vendors and put together a review feature with a little insider flair, what do you think?”

Bill: “Go for it! Keep me posted. We can’t pay your expenses though.”

Me: “That’s fine. In return for not getting paid, I hope to use my access as your feature writer to also start some conservations on our Bandwidth shaper, to get some feedback on our direction.”

Bill : “Sounds good, just keep it discreet.”

And so I was off to Orlando.

On trade show day I wandered the floor with my little badge identifying me as a representative of the publishing company Ziff Davis.  I walked booth to booth introducing myself and asking about what new products were being featured.

The strategy was working.  Various marketing executives were eager to tell me about their new offerings.  Once we had a little rapport going, and I had gathered the information I needed for my product review, I would attempt to work into the conversation that I was not only a part-time feature writer, but also a tech entrepreneur. Much to my surprise, most people were curious to learn about my endeavor and our start up technology.  That was until I entered the Nortel Booth.

When I brought up my alter ego personality as an entrepreneur to the Nortel Marketing rep, he blew a gasket and had me escorted from his booth by some henchmen.  It was  one of those demoralizing, embarrassing moments as an entrepreneur that you just have to push past.

Obviously, we kept going and there were many more dead ends to come. I learned just as in the hospital, whether your an advocate for your product, or your ailing mother, you must push ahead and continue to work out of the box.  And yes, I eventually did get back into the ER, and yes, it was embarrassing.

As a reference, here are links to some of the trade magazine articles I wrote back in the Mid 2000’s:

https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/80248-analysis-vuzes-allegations-are-anecdotal-but-troubling

https://www.pcmag.com/news/210995/analysis-the-white-lies-isps-tell-about-broadband-speeds

 

 

 

NetEqualizer Speeds up Websites with Embedded Video


Maybe I am old school, but when I go to a news site, I typically don’t want to watch videos of the news.  I want to skim the article text and move on. I find reading my news  to be a much more efficient way of filtering the content I am interested in.    The problem I have run into recently is that the text portion of news site portals loads much more slowly than a few years ago.  The text portions are starved for bandwidth while waiting for a video to load.  Considering text takes up very little bandwidth it should load very quickly, if not for that darn video!

Solution.

I can easily tune my NetEqualizer to throttle video, and leave text alone, thus I can get to reading the text without having to wait on the video to load.  It may seem counter-intuitive, but slowing a website video down does make the page load faster.

Here is a behind the scenes explanation of how the NetEq enhances the speed of some of the popular news sites when the stories are loaded with embedded video.

  • Your browser typically attempts to load multiple elements of a webpage at one time.  So I can’t really blame the browser for the text delays. Both the video and text, along with other images, all load simultaneously from the browsers perspective.
  • Video by its nature tries to buffer ahead when bandwidth is available.
  • With my business grade 20 megabit Internet, the video buffering will dominate the entire 20 megabits.  The text loading, even though small with respect to data, tends to suffer in the wings when a video download is dominating the link.
  • Why exactly the text loading does not get equal cycles to load I am not 100 percent sure, but people who design routers have told me that the persistent video connection once started is favored by the router over other packets.
  • The  NetEqualizer by its own design punishes large streams by slowing them down when your link is at capacity.    This allows the text loading a nice chunk of bandwidth to work with and it loads much more quickly than when competing with the video stream.

For  more details on how this works we have a youtube that explains it all.

 

 

 

 

NetEqualizer 15 Year Anniversary, Celebrating Famous NetEqualizer Users


First off, before I get into trouble , I want to assure all of our customers that in no way do we actually know or have data on who has had their personal traffic pass through a NetEqualizer over the past 15 years. What we can surmise, with a degree of probability/speculation, based on many of the locations we are installed  is , who has likely seen their traffic pass through our device.  What follows is a list of  those likely candidates

Michael Phelps:   For many years we were the primary source of Bandwidth Control in the olympic training center in Colorado Springs where many of the Olympic Swim team would practice  prior to the Olympics.  Basically any olympic athlete that connected to the wireless network in the training center from 2006 through 200? had their traffic pass though a NetEqualizer

 

Donald Trump:  NetEqualizer products have been used in several Los Angeles/Hollywood production studios where taping and of popular television shows take place , after taping the raw cuts are sent from the studio’s for editing and distribution. Yes it is very likely the Apprentice was taped in a Studio where the NetEqualizer was the Primary bandwidth  control solution.

 

The Pope:  Not sure if the Pope uses the Internet when he visits the US embassy in the Vatican but yes we do have NetEqualizer installed in the Vatican

 

Jerry Jones:  We have a NetEqualizer handling the traffic in the AT&T stadium business and conference center. I suspect that Jerry has wondered into that section of the Building  on occasion

Mark Cuban:  I have exchanged e-mails with Mark on a few other idea’s  un related to NetEqualizer. In our office  all of our traffic pass through our local NetEqualizer , hence I know with certainty that our e-mail exchange went through a NetEqualizer!

 

Barack Obama:  Prior to becoming president Mr Obama visited the Green Zone in Afghanistan along with other members of congress. At the time we had several systems in the green zone ( basically little american cities for Military people stationed there) keeping their wifi up and running.  For non secure communications he would have been using the local wifi and thus passing through a NetEqualizer.

These are just a few instances where I could logically place  these celebrities in locations where active NetEqualizers were shaping traffic.  Of course, we have  had many thousands of units installed over the years and the possibilities   are  endless.    Tens  of millions of users have passed through our controllers over the years . From Resort Hotels, Sports Venues , Universities, Conferences Centers, Fortune 500 business, and many many Rural and small Town ISPs all have deployed our equipment. Hence the actual list of famous people who have stumbled through a NetEqualizer is likely much higher, stay tuned for more to come.

 

By Art Reisman CTO/ Co Founder NetEqualizer

 

 

though

Smart Bandwidth Shaping


The NetEqualizer Bandwidth shaper has always had the ability to shape a group of people (subnet) to a fixed bandwidth limit. In laymen terms what this means is that you can take a segment of a network and say something like “you guys are only going to get 50 megabits, and try as you might to use more than 50 megabits, you are capped, and won’t be able to go over 50 megabits”.

What has been often requested and not supported, until now, is the ability to selectively enforce the group/subnet bandwidth limit.  In laymen terms again, “I want to set a 50 megabit limit on those guys, but only have it enforced when my network is near peak utilization.  The rest of the time I want those guys to be able to have all available bandwidth.”

Why is this important ?

The best way to answer this question is with an example.

A typical customer for our legacy enforcement feature would be a company where different business units within the company are allocated fixed amounts of bandwidth.   From experience and feed back from our customers we know , most of the time, the company as a whole, has more than enough bandwidth in reserve to accommodate all the business units.  The fixed allocations are really only needed during peak times to make sure no single business unit crowds out the others in a free for all bandwidth grab.   Assuming the critical peak usage situation only happens once a week, or once a day for a few hours , the old fixed allocation scheme is forcing business units to use a limited amount of bandwidth during times when there is unused bandwidth just going to waste. With our new scheme, the intelligence of the NetEqualizer will only apply the fixed allocation during those moments when bandwidth is at a premium.  There is no need for an IT person to make time of day adjustments to maximize utilization , it is automatically done for them.

With our new “Pool Bursting feature”, coming out in July, customers’ wishes have been made a reality.  Enforcement of our pool/subnet bandwidth limits can now be specified as absolute (always enforced) or enforced only at times of peak congestion.

One word of caution though.   As with any dynamic need-based enforcement there may be some customer backlash.  For example, the customer that comes to expect high bandwidth during low utilization times may not be happy if the enforcement kicks in and they are all of sudden hit with a bandwidth cap.

Wireless ISPs Making a Comeback


Back in 2007, every small town in North America had at least one, if not two, wireless ISPs. We know, because many were our customers.  The NetEqualizer was an essential piece to their profitability.  Our optimization techniques allowed ISPs to extend their  bandwidth service to more customers, hence increasing their profitability.  And then came the great recession.  Even as consumers were squeezed,  many of these smaller wireless ISPs initially fared well, as their customers would never cancel their Internet service. One operator told me “Our customers will pay their Internet bill before their heating bill.  You can wear a coat to get warm but you cannot live without the Internet.”

Then came the death-blow of the Broadband Initiative, not a bad idea in principle, but as many government spending programs in the past,  it did not trickle down to the smaller businesses, nor was the initial spend self-sustaining.  Instead, big chunks of the new-found money went to entrenched large providers who had been ignoring investing in rural areas, or it went into new ventures, friends of friends, people who had expertise in the ISP arena, and their businesses eventually fizzled.   The net effect was that the smaller ISPs who had laid the ground work in these rural areas and had been expanding were stopped in their tracks, unable to compete against subsidized competition.

Today the wireless ISPs that weathered the storm are seeing a resurgence, bolstered by better technology, the failure of many Broadband Initiative projects, and consumers being squeezed by the high prices and poor service of the entrenched monopolies.

Every week we are hearing from our old wireless ISP customers ready to upgrade their equipment; some of them have not been in contact with us since 2011.   Stay tuned, this is an evolving story.

 

 

 

Some Musings on Virtual Machines


By Art Reisman

The other day, I sold a smart refrigerator  to a customer. When they found out it had a computer in it, and could be controlled remotely from the Internet, they asked me if they could run it on their Virtual Machine to save some space in the kitchen.  I told them, sure  we support that , they just need to get a-hold of  an  add-on compressor and a 40 foot cubic container module for their VM,  and we would just ship a plug-in application. There would be no need to ship any hardware to them, we have  a virtual refrigerator!

I purposely used that over the top analogy, to highlight,  the chill down my spine I feel, when I hear about vendors bundling their core network equipment into a VM.

Virtual machines make a lot of sense for somebody running a data center with 10 different servers and consolidating them into one box.   My underlying discomfort stems from the extension of  that mission onto equipment that is involved the real-time transport of your data.  Switches , routers , firewalls and bandwidth shapers.  Why do I feel this way? Am I just an old stubborn  engineer clinging to the old ways while the world passed me by?

Not really, we have set up virtual machines with our bandwidth shaper with success in our labs, it is actually pretty cool. My discomfort arises with the fact that bandwidth shapers are finely tuned, real-time devices, with software that must run at the core level of the computer’s operating system.  A bandwidth shaper must have absolute control of perhaps 4 ethernet/fiber ports or more and under no circumstances can it compete with  CPU resources should a server become overloaded.  The consequences of any resource contention are at best a slow internet, and at worst a complete lock up.   Yes I understand a in theory a modern VM can divvy up resources , but how do we ensure that it is done correctly ?   When we ship a standalone device running only our application we know  exactly what it is capable of,  and since we have thousands of identical configuration in the field,  we know that the technology configuration that leaves our factory dock is rock solid stable.

This is not to say we will never offer a virtual machine, we did have one customer where the logistics of their set up was so remote that the benefits of a virtual bandwidth  shaper on their standard configuration far outweighed the risks I mentioned above; but for the most part saving a few dollars on rack space and an extra piece of hardware are not worth the jeopardizing the stability of a critical piece of in-line equipment.

 

 

Technology Predictions for 2018+


By Art Reisman

CTO http://www.apconnections.net

Below are my predictions for technology in 2018 and beyond. As you will see some of them are fairly pragmatic, while others may stretch the imagination a little bit.

  1. Forget about drones delivering packages to your door; too many obstacles in densely populated areas. For example, I don’t want unmanned drones dangling 30 pound flower pots flying above my head in my neighborhood. One gust of wind and bam,  flower-pot comes hurtling out of the sky.  I don’t want it even if it is technically possible!  But what is feasible, and likely, are slow plodding autonomous robots that can carry a payload and navigate to your doorstep.   Not as sexy as zippy little drones, but this technology is fairly mature on factory floors already, and those robots don’t ask for much in return.
  2. As for Networking advancements, we may see a “Cloud” backlash where companies bring some of their technology back in-house to gain full control of their systems and data.  I am not predicting the Cloud won’t continue to be a big player, it will, but it may have a hiccup or two along the way.  My reasoning is simple, and it goes back to the days of the telephone when AT&T started offering a PBX in the sky.  The exact name for this service slips my mind.  It sounded great and had its advantages, but many companies opted to purchase their own customer premise PBX equipment, as they did not want a third-party operating such a critical piece of infrastructure.  The same might be said for private companies thinking about the Cloud.  They could make an argument that they need to secure their own data and also ensure uptime access to their data.
  3. More broadband wireless ISPs coming to your neighborhood as an alternative option for home Internet.  I have had my ear to the street for quite some time, and the ability to beam high-speed Internet to your house has come a long way in the last 10 years.  Also the distrust, bitterness, dare I say hatred, for the traditional large incumbents is always a factor. One friend of mine is making inroads in a major city right in the heart of downtown simply by word of mouth.  His speeds are competitive, his costs are lower, and his service cannot be matched by the entrenched incumbent.
  4. Lower automobile insurance rates.  The newer fleet of smart cars that automatically break for or completely avoid obstacles is going to reduce serious accidents by 50 percent or more in the near future.  Insurance payouts will drop and eventually this will be passed on to consumers.  Longer-term, as everyone on the road has autonomous driving cars, insurance will be analogous to a manufacturer’s warranty, and will be paid by the auto manufacturer.
  5. The Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to explode, particularly in the smart home arena.  Home security has taken leaps & bounds in recent years, enabling a consumer to lock/unlock, view and manage their home remotely.  Now we are seeing IoT imbedded in more appliances, which will be able to be controlled remotely as well – so that you can run the dishwasher, washer, dryer, or oven from anywhere.
  6. Individual Biosensory data, like that collected by Garmin and Fitbit monitors, will be used by more companies and in more ways.  In 2018 my health insurance company is offering discounts for members that prove they use their gym memberships.  It is only a small leap to imagine a health insurance company asking for my biosensory data, to select my insurance group and to set my insurance rates.  As more people use fitness trackers and share their data (currently only with friends), it will become the norm to share this type of data, probably at first anonymously.  I can see a future where  health care providers and employers use this data to make decisions.

I will update soon as new ideas continue to pop into my head all the time.  Stay tuned!

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