Quality of service, or QoS as it’s commonly known, is one of those overused buzz words in the networking industry. In general, it refers to the overall quality of online activities such as video or VoIP calls, which, for example, might be judged by call clarity. For providers of Internet services, promises of high QoS are a selling point to consumers. And, of course, there are plenty of third-party products that claim to make quality of service that much better.
A year ago on our blog, we broke down the costs and benefits of certain QoS methods in our article QoS Is a Matter of Sacrifice. Since then, and in part to address some of the drawbacks and shortcomings we discussed, we’ve developed a new NetEqualizer release offering a very unique and novel way to provide QoS over your Internet link using a type of service (ToS) bit. In the article that follows, we’ll show that the NetEqualizer methodology is the only optimization device that can provide QoS in both directions of a voice or video call over an Internet link.
This is worth repeating: The NetEqualizer is the only device that can provide QoS in both directions for a voice or video call on an open Internet link. Traditional router-based solutions can only provide QoS in both directions of a call when both ends of a link are controlled within the enterprise. As a result, QoS is often reduced and limited. With the NetEqualizer, this limitation can now be largely overcome.
First, let’s step back and discuss why typical routers using ToS bits cannot ensure QoS for an incoming stream over the Internet. Consider a typical scenario with a VoIP call that relies on ToS bits to ensure quality within the enterprise. In this instance, both sending and receiving routers will make sure there is enough bandwidth on the WAN link to ensure the voice data gets across without interruption. But when there is a VoIP conversation going on between a phone within your enterprise and a user out on the cloud, the router can only ensure the data going out.
When communicating enterprise-to-cloud, the router at the edge of your network can see all of the traffic leaving your network and has the ability to queue up (slow down) less important traffic and put the ToS-tagged traffic ahead of everybody else leaving your network. The problem arises on the other side of the conversation. The incoming VoIP traffic is hitting your network and may also have a ToS bit set, but your router cannot control the rate at which other random data traffic arrives.
The general rule with using ToS bits to ensure priority is that you must control both the sending and receiving sides of every stream.
With data traffic originating from an uncontrolled source, such as with a Microsoft update, the Microsoft server is going to send data as fast as it can. The ToS mechanisms on your edge router have no way to control the data coming in from the Microsoft server, and thus the incoming data will crowd out the incoming voice call.
Under these circumstances, you’re likely to get customer complaints about the quality of VoIP calls. For example, a customer on a conference call may begin to notice that although others can hear him or her fine, those on the other end of the line break up every so often.
So it would seem that by the time incoming traffic hits your edge router it’s too late to honor priority. Or is it?
When we tell customers we’ve solved this problem with a single device on the link, and that we can provide priority for VoIP and video, we get looks as if we just proved the Earth isn’t flat for the first time.
But here’s how we do it.
First, you must think of QoS as the science of taking away bandwidth from the low-priority user rather than giving special treatment to a high-priority user. We’ve shown that if you create a slow virtual circuit for a non-priority connection, it will slow down naturally and thus return bandwidth to the circuit.
By only slowing down the larger low-priority connections, you can essentially guarantee more bandwidth for everybody else. The trick to providing priority to an incoming stream (voice call or video) is to restrict the flows from the other non-essential streams on the link. It turns out that if you create a low virtual circuit for these lower-priority streams, the sender will naturally back off. You don’t need to be in control of the router on the sending side.
For example, let’s say Microsoft is sending an update to your enterprise and it’s wiping out all available bandwidth on your inbound link. Your VPN users cannot get in, cannot connect via VoIP, etc. When sitting at your edge, the NetEqualizer will detect the ToS bits on your VPN and VoIP call. It will then see the lack of ToS bits on the Microsoft update. In doing so, it will automatically start queuing the incoming Microsoft data. Ninety-nine out of one hundred times this technique will cause the sending Microsoft server to sense the slower circuit and back off, and your VPN/VoIP call will receive ample bandwidth to continue without interruption.
For some reason the typical router is not designed to work this way. As a result, it’s at a loss as to how to provide QoS on an incoming link. This is something we’ve been doing for years based on behavior, and in our upcoming release, we’ve improved on our technology to honor ToS bits. Prior to this release, our customers were required to identify priority users by IP address. Going forward, the standard ToS bits (which remain in the IP packet even through the cloud) will be honored, and thus we have a very solid viable solution for providing QoS on an incoming Internet link.
Related article QOS over the Internet is it possible?
Related Example: Below is an excerpt from a user that could have benefited from a NetEqualizer. In this comment below, taken from an Astaro forum, the user is lamenting on the fact that despite setting QoS bits he can’t get his network to give priority to his VoIP traffic:
“Obviously, I can’t get this problem resolved by using QoS functionality of Astaro. Phone system still shows lost packets when there is a significant concurring traffic. Astaro does not shrink the bandwidth of irrelevant traffic to the favor of VoIP definitions, I don’t know where the problem is and obviously nobody can clear this up.
Astaro Support Engineer said “Get a dedicated digital line,” so I ordered one it will be installed shortly.
The only way to survive until the new line is installed was to throttle all local subnets, except for IPOfficeInternal, to ensure the latter will have enough bandwidth at any given time, but this is not a very smart way of doing this.“