Speeding up Your T1, DS3, or Cable Internet Connection with an Optimizing Appliance


By Art Reisman, CTO, APconnections (www.netequalizer.com)

Whether you are a home user or a large multinational corporation, you likely want to get the most out of your Internet connection. In previous articles, we have  briefly covered using Equalizing (Fairness)  as a tool to speed up your connection without purchasing additional bandwidth. In the following sections, we’ll break down  exactly how this is accomplished in layman’s terms.

First , what is an optimizing appliance?

An optimizing appliance is a piece of networking equipment that has one Ethernet input and one Ethernet output. It is normally located between the router that terminates your Internet connection and the users on your network. From this location, all Internet traffic must pass through the device. When activated, the optimizing appliance can rearrange traffic loads for optimal service, thus preventing the need for costly new bandwidth upgrades.

Next, we’ll summarize equalizing and behavior-based shaping.

Overall, equalizing is a simple concept. It is the art form of looking at the usage patterns on the network, and when things get congested, robbing from the rich to give to the poor. In other words, heavy users are limited in the amount of badwidth to which they have access in order to ensure that ALL users on the network can utilize the network effectively. Rather than writing hundreds of rules to specify allocations to specific traffic as in traditional application shaping, you can simply assume that large downloads are bad, short quick traffic is good, and be done with it.

How is Fairness implemented?

If you have multiple users sharing your Internet trunk and somebody mentions “fairness,” it probably conjures up the image of each user waiting in line for their turn. And while a device that enforces fairness in this way would certainly be better than doing nothing, Equalizing goes a few steps further than this.

We don’t just divide the bandwidth equally like a “brain dead” controller. Equalizing is a system of dynamic priorities that reward smaller users at the expense of heavy users. It is very very dynamic, and there is no pre-set limit on any user. In fact, the NetEqualizer does not keep track of users at all. Instead, we monitor user streams. So, a user may be getting one stream (FTP Download) slowed down while at the same time having another stream untouched(e-mail).

Another key element in behavior-based shaping is connections. Equalizing takes care of instances of congestion caused by single-source bandwidth hogs. However, the other main cause of Internet gridlock (as well as bringing down routers and access points) is p2p and its propensity to open hundreds or perhaps thousands of connections to different sources on the Internet. Over the years, the NetEqualizer engineers have developed very specific algorithms to spot connection abuse and avert its side effects.

What is the result?

The end result is that applications such as Web surfing, IM, short downloads, and voice all naturally receive higher priority, while large downloads and p2p receive lower priority. Also, situations where we cut back large streams is  generally for a short duration. As an added advantage, this behavior-based shaping does not need to be updated constantly as applications change.

Trusting a heuristic solution such as NetEqualizer is not always an easy step. Oftentimes, customers are concerned with accidentally throttling important traffic that might not fit the NetEqualizer model, such as video. Although there are exceptions, it is rare for the network operator not to know about these potential issues in advance, and there are generally relatively few to consider. In fact, the only exception that we run into is video, and the NetEqualizer has a low level routine that easily allows you to give overriding priority to a specific server on your network, hence solving the problem. The NetEqualizer also has a special feature whereby you can exempt and give priority to any IP address specifically in the event that a large stream such as video must be given priority.

Through the implementation of Equalizing technology, network administrators are able to get the most out of their network. Users of the NetEqualizer are often surprised to find that their network problems were not a result of a lack of bandwidth, but rather a lack of bandwidth control.

See who else is using this technology.

Created by APconnections, the NetEqualizer is a plug-and-play bandwidth control and WAN/Internet optimization appliance that is flexible and scalable. When the network is congested, NetEqualizer’s unique “behavior shaping” technology dynamically and automatically gives priority to latency sensitive applications, such as VoIP and email. Click here for a full price list.

Hotel Property Managers Should Consider Generic Bandwidth Control Solutions


Editors Note: The following Hotelsmag.com article caught my attention this morning. The hotel industry is now seriously starting to understand that they need some form of bandwidth control.   However, many hotel solutions for bandwidth control are custom marketed, which perhaps puts their economy-of-scale at a competitive disadvantage. Yet, the NetEqualizer bandwidth controller, as well as our competitors, cross many market verticals, offering hotels an effective solution without the niche-market costs. For example, in addition to the numerous other industries in which the NetEqualizer is being used, some of our hotel customers include: The Holiday Inn Capital Hill, a prominent Washington DC hotel; The Portola Plaza Hotel and Conference Center in Monterrey, California; and the Hotel St. Regis in New York City.

For more information about the NetEqualizer, or to check out our live demo, visit www.netequalizer.com.

Heavy Users Tax Hotel Systems:Hoteliers and IT Staff Must Adapt to a New Reality of Extreme Bandwidth Demands

By Stephanie Overby, Special to Hotels — Hotels, 3/1/2009

The tweens taking up the seventh floor are instant-messaging while listening to Internet radio and downloading a pirated version of “Twilight” to watch later. The 200-person meeting in the ballroom has a full interactive multimedia presentation going for the next hour. And you do not want to know what the businessman in room 1208 is streaming on BitTorrent, but it is probably not a productivity booster.

To keep reading, click here.

APconnections Announces NetEqualizer Holiday Promotion


APconnections announced today that all NetEqualizer’s purchased between December 10, 2008 and January 1, 2009 will automatically entitle the purchaser to a free Garmin GPS system.

Details:

Qualifying purchasers of NetEqualizer models NE2000-20 and above will receive a Garmin nüvi® 200 (part number: 010-00621-10):

garming-nuvi-2001

Purchases of NetEqualizer models NE2000-10, NE2000-4, NE2000-2, or any NSS qualify for a free Garmin eTrex® H (part number: 010-00631-00):

etrex-h

To qualify, send us the serial number and purchase date from your NetEqualizer. Requests for Garmin  units must be received by Jan 31, 2009. Only NetEqualizer models and NSS upgrades purchased between December 10, 2008 and January 1, 2009 will qualify. Offer good while supplies last. Standard mapping software included as provided by Garmin. All other accessories and mapping software not included.

Will the New UDP-based Bittorrent Thwart Traffic Shaping?


A customer asked us today how the newer Bittorrent methods using UDP will affect our ability to keep traffic in check. Here is our first take on this subject (See the related article “Bittorrent declares war on VoIP, gamers”).

The change from TCP to UDP transfer will have some effect on our methods to throttle bandwidth, however, at
the IP level there is no difference between the two and we have never based our shaping techniques on whether packets were UDP or TCP. The ISP mentioned in the  article mentioned above likely uses TCP window-size manipulation to slow downloads. You can’t do that with UDP, and I think that is what the author was eluding to.

The only difference for the NetEqualizer will be that UDP streams are harder to knock down, so it may require a tuning change if it is really an issue. By this, I mean we may have to hit them harder with more latency than our standard defaults when throttling packets.

On a side note, we are seeing some interesting trends with regard to Bittorrent.

When looking at our customer networks, we are just not seeing the same levels of Bittorrent that we have seen in the past  (circa 2006).

We believe the drop is due to a couple of factors:

1)  The RIAA’s enforcement — The high school and university crowd has been sufficiently spanked with copyright prosecutions. Most people now think twice about downloading copyrighted material.

2) Legal alternatives — The popularity of online purchase music  sites has replaced some of the illegal transfers (These also take up bandwidth, but they are not distributed by bittorrent).

The recent trends do not mean that bittorrent is going away, but rather that viable alternatives are emerging.  However, while legal distribution of content is here to stay and will likely grow over time, we do not expect an explosion that will completely replace bittorrent.

Open Source Linux Bandwidth Arbitrator vs. NetEqualizer Bandwidth Shaping


As many of you know, the commercial NetEqualizer bandwidth shaper is based on the Linux Bandwidth Arbitrator. From old customers and new, we often get asked what the differences are between the two solutions. Here are a few key points to consider…

1) Time and expertise

Most entities using open source have an experienced technology team with time to burn. Typically, users are university graduate students or eastern European start ups.  If you have time and Linux expertise, then building and supporting the open source Linux Bandwidth Arbitrator is an excellent option.

2) Full featured GUI

The GUI and many advanced integrated features are not available with the Bandwidth Arbitrator.

3) Support

You are on your own should there be a problem with the open source technology.

4) Advanced features not in open source

Many of the features in the NetEqualizer are not part of the GPL source code. For example, priority host, bandwidth pools, and VLAN support are not available with the Bandwidth Arbitrator.

We’re sure longtime users of both products can add to the list, but this is a start. For more information about the Bandwidth Arbitrator and NetEqualizer, visit www.bandwidtharbitrator.com and www.netequalizer.com.

Created by APconnections, the NetEqualizer is a plug-and-play bandwidth control and WAN/Internet optimization appliance that is flexible and scalable. When the network is congested, NetEqualizer’s unique “behavior shaping” technology dynamically and automatically gives priority to latency sensitive applications, such as VoIP and email. Click here for a full price list.

How Much YouTube Can the Internet Handle?


By Art Reisman, CTO, http://www.netequalizer.com 

Art Reisman CTO www.netequalizer.com

Art Reisman

 

As the Internet continues to grow and true speeds become higher,  video sites like YouTube are taking advantage of these fatter pipes. However, unlike the peer-to-peer traffic of several years ago (which seems to be abating), YouTube videos don’t face the veil of copyright scrutiny cast upon p2p which caused most users to back off.
 

In our experience, there are trade offs associated with the advancements in technology that have come with YouTube. From measurements done in our NetEqualizer laboratories, the typical normal quality YouTube video needs about 240kbs sustained over the 10 minute run time for the video. The newer higher definition videos run at a rate at least twice that. 

Many of the rural ISPs that we at NetEqualizer support with our bandwidth shaping and control equipment have contention ratios of about 300 users per 10-megabit link. This seems to be the ratio point where these small businesses can turn  a profit.  Given this contention ratio, if 40 customers simultaneously run YouTube, the link will be exhausted and all 300 customers will be wishing they had their dial-up back. At last check, YouTube traffic accounted for 10 percent of all Internet Traffic.  If left completely unregulated,  a typical rural  ISP could find itself on the brink of saturation from normal YouTube usage already. With tier-1 providers in major metro areas there is usually more bandwidth, but with that comes higher expectations of service and hence some saturation is inevitable. 

If you believe there is a conspiracy, or that ISPs are not supposed to profit as they take risk and operate in a market economy, you are entitled to your opinion, but we are dealing with reality. And there will always be tension between users and their providers, much the same as there is with government funds and highway congestion. 

The fact is all ISPs have a fixed amount of bandwidth they can deliver and when data flows exceed their current capacity, they are forced to implement some form of passive constraint. Without them many networks would lock up completely. This is no different than a city restricting water usage when reservoirs are low. Water restrictions are well understood by the populace and yet somehow bandwidth allocations and restrictions are perceived as evil. I believe this misconception is simply due to the fact that bandwidth is so dynamic, if there was a giant reservoir of bandwidth pooled up in the mountains where you could see this resource slowly become depleted , the problem could be more easily visualized. 

The best compromise offered, and the only comprise that is not intrusive is bandwidth rationing at peak hours when needed. Without rationing, a network will fall into gridlock, in which case not only do the YouTube videos come to halt , but  so does e-mail , chat , VOIP and other less intensive applications. 

There is some good news, alternative ways to watch YouTube videos. 

We noticed during out testing that YouTube videos attempt to play back video as a  real-time feed , like watching live TV.  When you go directly to YouTube to watch a video, the site and your PC immediately start the video and the quality becomes dependent on having that 240kbs. If your providers speed dips below this level your video will begin to stall, very annoying;  however if you are willing to wait a few seconds there are tools out there that will play back YouTube videos for you in non real-time. 

Buffering Tool 

They accomplish this by pre-buffering before the video starts playing.  We have not reviewed any of these tools so do your research. We suggest you google “YouTube buffering tools” to see what is out there. Not only do these tools smooth out the YouTube playback during peak times or on slower connections , but they also help balance the load on the network during peak times. 

Bio Art Reisman is a partner and co-founder of APconnections, a company that provides bandwidth control solutions (NetEqualizer) to ISPs, Universities, Libraries, Mining Camps and any organization where groups of users must share their Internet resources equitably. What follows is an objective educational journey on how consumers and ISPs can live in harmony with the explosion of YouTube video.

Death to Deep Packet (layer 7 shaping) Inspection


Editors note: Deep packet inspection (layer 7 shaping) will likely be around for a while. It is very easy to explain this technology to customers, hence many IT resellers latch on to it as it makes a compelling elevator pitch.  We put out the press release below to formalize our position on this issue.

For detailed information on how the techniques of NetEqualizer differ from Deep Packet inspection, see the following link: http://www.netequalizer.com/Compare_NetEqualizer.php

LAFAYETTE, Colo., October 28, 2008 — APconnections, a leading supplier of plug-and-play bandwidth shaping products, today made a formal announcement to formally discontinue  deep packet inspection techniques in their NetEqualizer product line.

“Our behavior-based techniques worked so well that current customers stopped asking for the layer-7 techniques we had at one time implemented into our system,” said Art Reisman, CEO of APconnections. “So, we eventually just decided to phase the technique out completely.”

Although deep packet inspection, also known as layer-7 shaping, was unofficially discontinued nearly two years ago, the ongoing debates over user privacy spurred the official announcement.

“What prompted us to make a formal announcement was the continued industry lack of understanding that deep packet inspection not only does not work very well, but it also puts you are at risk of violating privacy laws if you use these techniques without customer consent,” said Reisman.

Although Reisman says most providers cross this line with the good intentions of controlling traffic congestion, the reality of it is that it’s no different than listening to a private phone conversation and terminating the call if you don’t like what you hear.

“It’s quite risky  that any public US based ISP would invest in  this technique, especially after the FCC slapped Comcast’s wrists in a recent decision” said Riesman.

For more information on the NetEqualizer technology, visit www.netequalizer.com or contact APconnections at 1-800-918-2763 or via email sales@netequalizer.com.

The NetEqualizer is a plug-and-play bandwidth control and WAN/Internet optimization appliance that is flexible and scalable. When the network is congested, NetEqualizer’s unique “behavior shaping” technology gives priority to latency sensitive applications, such as VoIP and email. It does it all dynamically and automatically, improving on other bandwidth shaping technology available.

APconnections is a privately held company founded in 2003 and is based in Lafayette, Colorado.

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