How to Prioritize Internet Traffic For Video


My daughter, a high school teacher, texted me the other day and said she is having trouble with her home video breaking up. This is not a good situation for her and many other remote learning operations around the world.  There are ways to mitigate this issue, but it must be done upstream by her ISP, and so I could not help her directly. I tried calling Comcast to let them know we have a solution, but they did not return my call. Perhaps one of their engineers will read the blog article that follows.

There is a very simple way to make sure video works well all the time, and with the new generation of video controllers this technique is better than ever.  Okay, sorry for sounding like I am promoting a miracle cure, but in essence I am (and have been doing it with success for 17 years now).

The basic technique involves making sure your circuit does not reach 100% percent capacity.  Video is like the proverbial “canary in a coal mine”; it will be the first to suffer and will abruptly stop working when it runs out of bandwidth.

How you should keep your circuit from reaching 100% percent capacity and disrupting video?   There are two important scenarios that you need to consider:

Scenario #1 assumes you have a large non-video consumers of bandwidth that are filling your circuit.  This is a problem that we normally deal with, and the solution is to use a bandwidth controller to limit streams larger than 4 megabits during peak usage.  By doing this you can free up traffic for video, as almost all video, Netflix, etc. use 4 megabits or less.  Remote learning applications use even less, as they generally don’t need the video quality of a high def movie to be useful.

The issue with this method, and one that has come to fruition recently, is a huge influx of video, now that other recreational activities have been put on hold.  Even for ISPs that were ramping up their delivery mechanisms with the normal usage curve, the spike in recent video demand was unexpected, just like the covid-19 virus causing unplanned quarantines and lockdowns.

Scenario #2 is the situation where a majority of your traffic is video, and you may not be able to recover enough bandwidth by limiting larger streams. What do you do now?

Several years ago most video streams were an all or nothing proposition. Either they received the bandwidth they needed or they just stopped.  As the industry has matured so have the video delivery engines. They are much smarter now, and you can now force them to back off gracefully.  Today’s engines will sense the available bandwidth and back off to a lower resolution as needed.

From the perspective of an ISP, you can trick video into backing off  before you have a crisis on your hands. The trick is to progressively limit 4 megabit streams down to 1 or 2 meg.

We can do this quite easily with our bandwidth controller, but for those of you that have a simple rate limiting controller without dynamic intelligence built-in, you might be able to do this manually if you can limit individual connections.  For example, you might have a user with a 50 megabit circuit.  You would not want to limit their entire circuit down to 2 megabits, but you could limit any stream that is pulling over 4 megabits down to 2 megabits, and video will still function and the customer will continue to have access to the 50 meg circuit for other services.  By limiting just “streams” and not the entire circuit you will trick the smart video services to back off on their resolution.

A proactive approach will prevent gridlock on your entire circuit before it happens;  whereas doing nothing will cause what we call a rolling brownout.  This is when everything is fine and  all of a sudden bandwidth across the enterprise maxes out, and you basically blow a circuit breaker.  There is no bandwidth left for the video services or any other application, and thus all users experience failing application for 30 seconds or longer.  In our opinion, this is a totally preventable situation, if you have implemented manual (or intelligent) bandwidth shaping.

If you are experiencing Scenario #2, and would like to discuss how you can implement bandwidth shaping, contact one of our engineers at 303.997.1300 x103 or email us to discuss further.

The Must Have Tool for the E-Sports Enthusiast


E-Sports in schools is becoming mainstream. You can make a living at it as well. Having the right amount of bandwidth for it is essential. It doesn’t matter if that bandwidth is in-house on a LAN situation or over the Internet. Playing or even practicing suffers when a game doesn’t get what it needs. (for you readers on the other side of the coin that need to make sure other things get done without gaming interfering keep reading too :)

Believe it or not, playing games online was one of the reasons I got interested in bandwidth management!

Every FPS (first person shooter) player wants to have a gaming experience where the only reason they lose is because they met someone better than them. You don’t want to lose because you see your screen freeze waiting for the next packet to arrive to refresh the screen.

I dove into learning as much about Internet/Networking as I could so I could try and get the best setup I could for my network. I ran my own servers so I could control some of that. I never played on the same network as the server back then because that wouldn’t be fair to others. Running my own servers I could also see what else was going on with the network traffic.

I knew how much my servers needed per person to play like they should so I knew that 8 or 16 players would take a certain amount of bandwidth. I knew how much total bandwidth I had for the network. What I didn’t know was how much all the other machines on the network was using and how.

With NetEqualizer you can easily see how much every IP is using. That’s every connection an IP has and how much it is using, that’s the important part. You can tell if your mail server is getting hit hard, or the web server is uploading/downloading huge objects to some offsite IP. If needed you can put connection limits on things with NetEqualizer.

You can also provide priority over getting equalized by the NetEqualizer for your gaming server IP. Even though you have priority on it you can still have a total amount it can use hard limit on it.

In a setting where you want to play games during certain hours you can have rules that go on and come off at different times. For instance if you are in a high school that provides E-Sports gaming then it can be setup so that the administrative IPs all have priority from 8am to 2pm but after that you can take it off and let E-Sports have a bit more priority so you don’t end up getting LAG!

NetEqualizer works both ways, it can be used to give administration priority when you want it to be the most important traffic on the network or you can give programs like E-Sports more priority so your gaming does not suffer when its necessary.

NetEqualizer strives to be a set and forget type of bandwidth manager but it has a lot for the ones that need micro manage it as well. You can set hard limits on IPs, create Pools which have a certain amount of bandwidth and then stick IPs into those pools as members so all the IPs in the pool can use up to the pools specified hard limit. You can set connection limits on IPs. Also the default task of the NetEqualizer is to equalize. If placed on a network without any configuration besides telling it how much in and out bandwidth you have it will monitor all connections from all IPs it sees and when RATIO of incoming or outgoing bandwidth is reached it looks for all connections over a value we call HOGMIN and slows those large connections down so the rest of the connections on the network don’t suffer. A real simple example is if you
are on a standard VoIP call which only uses a few hundred K of bandwidth and someone on the network decides to start downloading a high def movie file from the web. Without NetEqualizer its anyones guess what will happen to the VoIP call. With NetEqualizer its predetermined what will happen. First thing it does is see if there is any reason to look for connections to equalize. If you are no where need your bandwidth ceiling then it does nothing and keeps monitoring. Both your VoIP and download should go along like NetEqualizer wasn’t there. Now if NetEqualizer sees that you are near your ceiling on total bandwidth that you told it you have then it looks for all connections over HOGMIN. Every connection that doesn’t specifically have a priority rule for it will be slowed down by a few milliseconds and this will happen for as long as the bandwidth is near saturation. When a connection is equalized we don’t just do it and leave it that way. We do it in stages so things like fragile FTP servers don’t just drop the connection. We put on a small delay and then in a second or so we check again and if it still needs equalizing and still a connection we put on a bit more and then we do the same routine one more time if things are still needing equalizing. Then we take it completely off and start all over in another second or two.

The NetEqualizer equalizes a connection from one IP to another IP. So if your web server is uploading a file to some IP and its huge then it may be equalized for that connection. The other 100’s or 1000’s of connections to your web server would not be equalized unless they were also over HOGMIN and there was a need to equalize. The same applies to any IP no matter if it belongs to your mail servers or game servers or testing servers. As mentioned above, you can set priority for things like video servers you push out to the world and know those streams would be over HOGMIN but are important enough to mandate they have no equalizing on them.

 

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.

 

 

 

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