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!

How to best use your 100 megabit Internet Pipe


In a previous article we made the following statement.

“ISPs are now promising 100 megabit per second consumer  service , and are betting on the fact that most consumers will only use a fraction of that at any given time.  In other words, they have oversold their capacity without backlash.  In the unlikely event that all their customers tried to pull their max bandwidth at one time, there would be extreme gridlock, but the probability of this happening is almost zero. “

So I ask the question  , what would it take to make full use of your 100 megabit pipe ?

A typical  streamed movie consumes about 4 megabits, So you would need to watch 25 Netflix movies at once all day every day to fully utilize your pipe.  Obviously watching 25 movies at once all day every day is not very practical, you’d need multiple Netflix Accounts and 25 devices to watch them on.

Big files:  A 100 Gigabyte file, that’s a good size download for a consumer right?   Well, that would take approximately 4 minutes  to download on a 100 megabit pipe, and then you’d have to find another one.

For convenience  maybe you could find   a 1,000 Gigabyte file? That would take  only 40 minutes, so you are still kind of left with a good deal of spare pipe  for most of the day.  How about a 10,000 Gigabyte file  (10 Tera Bytes ) , that would take 400 minutes.   By my calculations, in order to make use of  your 100 megabit  pipe completely for 24 hours , you would need to download a 40 Terabyte file?

Where could you find such a file?

I did some poking around and there are a couple of sites that have gigantic files for no particular reason , but the only practical file with a reason to download  was this one:

 

“Some time ago I was interested in creating custom maps of the Earth, and I realized that the data files needed for this are pretty large; and the more zoom you want, the larger are the data files.

OpenStreetMap has a huge file of the Earth which is 82GB compressed and around 1TB uncompressed according to the OSM wiki, and it will become larger. You can find it updated here.”

So this very large file that maps the entire earth is 82 Gig in compressed form for download, a tiny fraction of the full 40 terabytes  you would need to download in one day to fill up your pipe.

What is the moral of the story ?

Internet providers can safely offer 100 megabit pipes full well knowing,  that  even their heaviest users are likely not going to average  more than 5 megabits  sustained over a long time period.  You would actually have to be maliciously downloading ridiculously sized files all day every day to use your full pipe.

Gmail Gone AWOL


By Art Reisman

CTO http://www.netequalizer.com

 

I have  a confession to make. Even though we have a corporate e-mail server at my company, I have been using Gmail for my primary business e-mail going back to 2002.  I  love the ability to search old records and conversations from the past.   With Google’s technology , searching gmail was second to none. Sometimes , I searched just for nostalgia  purposes, like the final e-mail conversation I had wih my Mom when my dad was taken off dialysis in hospice, and sometimes for business reasons.   Unfortunately my world has recently been shattered.   All my e-mail prior to 2008 is completely gone, and I have searched far and wide for a policy from Gmail that might explain why.  I pay a monthly fee for google storage and was well below my limit, I have tried their support forums and so far  just silence. If you are a long time e-mail users I suggest you try to search  your archives.  Ten years seems to be the cut off where things got dumped or lost.

 

And no ,  have not been corresponding with any Russian operatives!

NetEqualizer Reporting Only License now Available for Purchase


For about half the cost of the full-featured NetEqualizer, you can now purchase a NetEqualizer with a Reporting Only License.  Our Reporting Only option enables you to view your network usage data in real-time (as of this second), as well as to view historical usage to see your network usage trends.

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 3.59.43 PM

Live Screen Shot Showing Overall Bandwidth In Real Time

 Reporting can help you to troubleshoot your network, from identifying DDoS and virus activity, to assessing for possible unwanted P2P traffic.

You might consider a Reporting Only NetEqualizer for a site where you would like better visibility into your network, and also think you may need to shape at some point.  It could also help you to assess a network segment from a traffic flow perspective.

And the great thing is, we always protect your investment in our technology.  If at a later time you do decide you want to use our state-of-the-art shaping technology, you have not lost your initial investment in the NetEqualizer.  You can always upgrade and only pay the price difference.

What features come in Release 1 (R.v1) of the Reporting Only NetEqualizer?

  • Reporting by IP , real time and historical usage
  • Reporting by Subnet , VLAN  real time and historical usage
  • Reporting by Domain Name ( Yahoo, Facebook etc) Real time and historical
  • Real-time spreadsheet style snapshot of all existing connections

Troubleshooting Tools

  • Top Uploaders & Downloaders
  • Abusive behavior due to Viruses
  • DDoS detection
  • P2P detection
  • Alerts and Alarms for Quota Overages
  • Peak Bandwidth Alerting

More features to come in our next release, please put in your request now!

Reporting Only prices include first year support.  Prices listed below are good through 3/31/2018.  After March 2018, contact us for current pricing.

NE3000-R 500Mbps price   $3000
NE3000-R 1Gbps price      $4000
NE4000-R 5Gbps price       $6000

Note that Reporting Only NetEqualizers can be license-upgraded in the field to enable full   shaping capabilities.

The New Bandwidth Paradigm


For years the prevailing belief was that consumers would always outstrip bandwidth supply.  From our recent conversations with several land line operators,  their experience suggests that in the near-term, that paradigm may not be true.

How could this be?

The answer is fairly simple.  Since streaming HD video became all the rage some 10+ years ago, there has not been any real pressure from any new bandwidth-intensive applications.   All the while, ISPs have been increasing their capacity.  The net result is that many wired providers have finally outstripped demand.

Yes, many video content options have popped up for both real-time streaming and recorded entertainment.  However, when we drill down on consumption, we find that almost all video caps out at 4 megabits per second.  Combine a 4 megabit per second self-imposed video limit with the observation that consumers are averaging 1 movie for every 3 connected households, and we can see what true consumption is nowadays – at or below 4 megabits per second per house.   Thus, even though ISPs now advertise  50 or 100 megabit per second last mile connections to the home, consumers rarely have reason to use that much bandwidth for a sustained period of time.   There is just no application beyond video that they use on a regular basis.

What about the plethora of other applications?

I just did a little experiment on my Internet connection leaving my home office.  My average consumption, including two low resolution security camera’s, a WebEx session, a Skype call, several open web pages, and some smart devices, came to a grand total of 0.7 megabits per second.   The only time I even come close to saturating my 20 megabit per second connection is when I download a computer update of some kind, and obviously this is a relatively rare event, once a month at most.

What about the future?

ISPs are now promising 50 or 100 megabit per second connections, and are betting on the fact that most consumers will only use a fraction of that at any given time.  In other words, they have oversold their capacity without backlash.  In the unlikely event that all their customers tried to pull their max bandwidth at one time, there would be extreme gridlock, but the probability of this happening is almost zero.   At this time we don’t see any new application beyond video that will seriously demand a tenfold type increase in bandwidth, which is what happened when we saw video come of age on the Internet.  Yes,  there will be increases in demand, but we expect that curve to be a few percent a year.

The Benefits of Slow Internet


By Art Reisman

CTO http://www.netequalizer.com

 

A few weekends a year I spend time at our rural retreat out in the middle of high plains of Kansas.  My internet options are very limited.  We have Wild Blue as a Satellite provider. Their service is on average worse than dial-up when it is working, and there are many reasons for it to randomly go out. Including heavy rain, woodpeckers destroying the plastic cap on the center of the dish, and just random congestion that can occur at any time of the day.  There was also the time I accidentally used up my data quota after leaving the Internet radio on for a week.  In response, they shut off my service without any notification.

As a back up to the wild blue, I have a 40 foot repeater antenna on the roof that picks up a 3g signal from the local wireless provider. If I sit right under the repeater, in a closet, I can get a data signal on my phone for those emergencies when I must respond to an e-mail, so technically I am not completely off grid.

 

When the Internet goes down , I will  fight for hours resetting routers and checking cables, just like my  1-year-old grandson screaming for hours when overtired. I will not give up my Internet access without a fight.

 

But then it happens. At some point I give up.  The Internet is unusable or completely gone.  With great relief, I look over at my night stand, where I have a stack of unread nature books that sits for months at a time. Much like the island of misfit toys, these books just need to be read.  My favorite nature  writer Richard Coniff  lulls  me into  a wonderful world without politics, without doomsday weather events for which I have no control, no angry customer e-mails :) For several hours I can enjoy nature and the glorious rhythm of life without the Internet.

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