Alternatives to Bandwidth Addiction


By Art Reisman

CTO – http://www.netequalizer.com

Art Reisman CTO www.netequalizer.com

Bandwidth providers are organized to sell bandwidth. In the face of bandwidth congestion, their fall back position is always to sell more bandwidth, never to slow consumption. Would a crack dealer send their clients to a treatment program?

For example, I have had hundreds of encounters with people at bandwidth resellers; all of our exchanges have been courteous and upbeat, and yet a vendor relationship rarely develops. Whether they are executives, account managers, or front-line technicians, the only time they call us is as a last resort to save an account, and for several good reasons.

1) It is much easier, conceptually, to sell a bandwidth upgrade rather than a piece of equipment.

2) Bandwidth contracts bring recurring revenue.

3) Providers can lock in a bandwidth contract, investors like contracts that guarantee revenue.

4) There is very little overhead to maintain a leased bandwidth line once up and running.

5) And as I eluded to before, would a crack dealer send a client to rehab?

6) Commercial bandwidth infrastructure costs have come down in the last several years.

7) Bandwidth upgrades are very often the most viable and easiest path to relieve a congested Internet connection.

Bandwidth optimization companies exist because at some point customers realize they cannot outrun their consumption. Believe it or not, the limiting factor to Internet access speed is not always the pure cost of raw bandwidth, enterprise infrastructure can be the limiting factor. Switches, routers, cabling, access points and back-hauls all have a price tag to upgrade, and sometimes it is easier to scale back on frivolous consumption.

The ROI of optimization is something your provider may not want you know.

The next time you consider a bandwidth upgrade at the bequest of your provider, you might want to look into some simple ways to optimize your consumption. You may not be able to fully arrest your increased demand with an optimizer, but realistically you can slow growth rate from a typical unchecked 20 percent a year to a more manageable 5 percent a year. With an optimization solution in place, your doubling time for bandwidth demand can easily reduce down from about 3.5 years to 15 years, which translates to huge cost savings.

Note: Companies such as level 3 offer optimization solutions, but with all do respect, I doubt those business units are exciting stock holders with revenue. My guess is they are a break even proposition; however I’d be glad to eat crow if I am wrong, I am purely speculating.  Sometimes companies are able to sell adjunct services at a nice profit.

Related NY times op-ed on bandwidth addiction

Nine Tips and Technologies for Network WAN Optimization


By Art Reisman

Art Reisman CTO www.netequalizer.com

Editor’s note: Art Reisman is the CTO of APconnections. APconnections designs and manufactures the popular NetEqualizer bandwidth shaper.

Although there is no way to actually make your true WAN speed faster, here are some tips for  corporate IT professionals that can make better use of the bandwidth you already have, thus providing the illusion of a faster pipe.

1) Caching — How  does it work and is it a good idea?

Caching servers have built-in intelligence to store the most recently and most frequently requested information, thus preventing future requests from traversing a WAN/Internet link unnecessarily.

Caching servers keep a time stamp of their last update to data. If the page time stamp has not changed since the last time a user has accessed the page, the caching server will present a local stored copy of the Web page, saving the time it would take to load the page from across the Internet.

Caching on your WAN link in some instances can reduce traffic by 50 percent or more. For example, if your employees are making a run on the latest PDF explaining their benefits, without caching each access would traverse the WAN link to a central server duplicating the data across the link many times over. With caching, they will receive a local copy from the caching server.

What is the downside of caching?

There are two main issues that can arise with caching:

a) Keeping the cache current –If you access a cache page that is not current you are at risk of getting old and incorrect information. Some things you may never want to be cached. For example, the results of a transactional database query. It’s not that these problems are insurmountable, but there is always the risk the data in cache will not be synchronized with changes. I personally have been misled by old data from my cache on several occasions.

b) Volume – There are some 300 million websites on the Internet. Each site contains upwards of several megabytes of public information. The amount of data is staggering and even the smartest caching scheme cannot account for the variation in usage patterns among users and the likelihood they will hit an uncached page.

We recommend Squid as a proxy solution.

2) Protocol Spoofing

Historically, there have been client server applications developed for an internal LAN. Many of these applications are considered chatty. For example, to complete a transaction between a client and server, tens of messages may be transmitted when perhaps one or two would suffice. Everything was fine until companies, for logistical and other reasons, extended their LANs across the globe using WAN links to tie different locations together.

To get a better visual on what goes on in a chatty application perhaps an analogy will help. It’s like  sending family members your summer vacation pictures, and, for some insane reason, putting each picture in a separate envelope and mailing them individually on the same mail run. Obviously, this would be extremely inefficient, just as chatty applications can be.

What protocol spoofing accomplishes is to “fake out” the client or server side of the transaction and then send a more compact version of the transaction over the Internet (i.e., put all the pictures in one envelope and send it on your behalf, thus saving you postage).

For more information, visit the Protocol Spoofing page at WANOptimization.org.

3) Compression

At first glance, the term compression seems intuitively obvious. Most people have at one time or another extracted a compressed Windows ZIP file. If you examine the file sizes pre- and post-extraction, it reveals there is more data on the hard drive after the extraction. Well, WAN compression products use some of the same principles, only they compress the data on the WAN link and decompress it automatically once delivered, thus saving space on the link, making the network more efficient. Even though you likely understand compression on a Windows file conceptually, it would be wise to understand what is really going on under the hood during compression before making an investment to reduce network costs. Here are two questions to consider.

a) How Does it Work? — A good and easy way to visualize data compression is comparing it to the use of short hand when taking dictation. By using a single symbol for common words a scribe can take written dictation much faster than if he were to spell out each word. The basic principle behind compression techniques is to use shortcuts to represent common data.

Commercial compression algorithms, although similar in principle, can vary widely in practice. Each company offering a solution typically has its own trade secrets that they closely guard for a competitive advantage. However, there are a few general rules common to all strategies. One technique is to encode a repeated character within a data file. For a simple example, let’s suppose we were compressing this very document and as a format separator we had a row with a solid dash.

The data for this solid dash line is comprised of approximately 160 times the ASCII character “-�. When transporting the document across a WAN link without compression, this line of document would require 80 bytes of data, but with clever compression, we can encode this using a special notation “-� X 160.

The compression device at the front end would read the 160 character line and realize,”Duh, this is stupid. Why send the same character 160 times in a row?” So, it would incorporate a special code to depict the data more efficiently.

Perhaps that was obvious, but it is important know a little bit about compression techniques to understand the limits of their effectiveness. There are many types of data that cannot be efficiently compressed.

For example, many image and voice recordings are already optimized and there is very little improvement in data size that can be accomplished with compression techniques. The companies that sell compression based solutions should be able to provide you with profiles on what to expect based on the type of data sent on your WAN link.

b) What are the downsides? — Compression always requires equipment at both ends of the link and results can be sporadic depending on the traffic type.

If you’re looking for compression vendors, we recommend FatPipe, Juniper Networks

4) Requesting Text Only from Browsers on Remote Links

Editors note: Although this may seem a bit archaic and backwoods, it can be effective in a pinch to keep a remote office up and running.

If you are stuck with a dial-up or slower WAN connection, have your users set their browsers to text-only mode. However, while this will speed up general browsing and e-mail, it will do nothing to speed up more bandwidth intensive activities like video conferencing. The reason why text only can be effective is that  most Web pages are loaded with graphics which take up the bulk of the load time. If you’re desperate, switching to text-only will eliminate the graphics and save you quite a bit of time.

5) Application Shaping on Your WAN Link

Editor’s Note: Application shaping is appropriate for corporate IT administrators and is generally not a practical solution for a home user. Makers of application shapers include Packeteer and Allot and are typically out of the price range for many smaller networks and home users.

One of the most popular and intuitive forms of optimizing bandwidth is a method called “application shaping,” with aliases of “traffic shaping,” “bandwidth control,” and perhaps a few others thrown in for good measure. For the IT manager that is held accountable for everything that can and will go wrong on a network, or the CIO that needs to manage network usage policies, this is a dream come true. If you can divvy up portions of your WAN/Internet link to various applications, then you can take control of your network and ensure that important traffic has sufficient bandwidth.

At the center of application shaping is the ability to identify traffic by type.  For example, identifying between Citrix traffic, streaming audio, Kazaa peer-to-peer, or something else. However, this approach is not without its drawbacks.

Here are a few common questions potential users of application shaping generally ask.

a) Can you control applications with just a firewall or do you need a special product? — Many applications are expected to use Internet ports when communicating across the Web. An Internet port is part of an Internet address, and many firewall products can easily identify ports and block or limit them. For example, the “FTP” application commonly used for downloading files uses the well known “port 21.”

The fallacy with this scheme, as many operators soon find out, is that there are many applications that do not consistently use a fixed port for communication. Many application writers have no desire to be easily classified. In fact, they don’t want IT personnel to block them at all, so they deliberately design applications to not conform to any formal port assignment scheme. For this reason, any product that aims to block or alter application flows by port should be avoided if your primary mission is to control applications by type.

b) So, if standard firewalls are inadequate at blocking applications by port, what can help?

As you are likely aware, all traffic on the Internet travels around in what is called an IP packet. An IP packet can very simply be thought of as a string of characters moving from Computer A to Computer B. The string of characters is called the “payload,” much like the freight inside a railroad car. On the outside of this payload, or data, is the address where it is being sent. These two elements, the address and the payload, comprise the complete IP packet.

In the case of different applications on the Internet, we would expect to see different kinds of payloads. For example, let’s take the example of a skyscraper being transported from New York to Los Angeles. How could this be done using a freight train? Common sense suggests that one would disassemble the office tower, stuff it into as many freight cars as it takes to transport it, and then when the train arrived in Los Angeles hopefully the workers on the other end would have the instructions on how to reassemble the tower.

Well, this analogy works with almost anything that is sent across the Internet, only the payload is some form of data, not a physical hunk of bricks, metal and wires. If we were sending a Word document as an e-mail attachment, guess what, the contents of the document would be disassembled into a bunch of IP packets and sent to the receiving e-mail client where it would be re-assembled. If I looked at the payload of each Internet packet in transit, I could actually see snippets of the document in each packet and could quite easily read the words as they went by.

At the heart of all current application shaping products is special software that examines the content of Internet packets, and through various pattern matching techniques, determines what type of application a particular flow is. Once a flow is determined, then the application shaping tool can enforce the operators policies on that flow. Some examples of policy are:

  • Limit Citrix traffic to 100kbs
  • Reserve 500kbs for Shoretel voice traffic

The list of rules you can apply to traffic types and flow is unlimited. However, there is a  downside to application shaping of which you should be aware. Here are a few:

  • The number of applications on the Internet is a moving target. The best application shaping tools do a very good job of identifying several thousand of them, and yet there will always be some traffic that is unknown (estimated at 10 percent by experts from the leading manufacturers). The unknown traffic is lumped into the unknown classification and an operator must make a blanket decision on how to shape this class. Is it important? Is it not? Suppose the important traffic was streaming audio for a Web cast and is not classified. Well, you get the picture. Although theory behind application shaping by type is a noble one, the cost for a company to stay up to date is large and there are cracks.
  • Even if the application spectrum could be completely classified, the spectrum of applications constantly changes. You must keep licenses current to ensure you have the latest in detection capabilities. And even then it can be quite a task to constantly analyze and change the mix of policies on your network. As bandwidth costs lessen, how much human time should be spent divvying up and creating ever more complex policies to optimize your WAN traffic?

6) Test Your WAN-Link Speed

A common issues with slow WAN link service is that your provider is not giving you what they have advertised.

For more information, see The Real Meaning of Comcast Generosity.

7) Make Sure There Is No Interference on Your Wireless Point-to-Point WAN Link

If the signal between locations served by a point to point link are weak, the wireless equipment will automatically downgrade its service to a slower speed. We have seen this many times where a customer believes they have perhaps a 40-megabit backhaul link and perhaps are only realizing five megabits.

8) Deploy a Fairness Device to Smooth Out Those Rough Patches During Contentious Busy Hours

Yes, this is the NetEqualizer News Blog, but with all bias aside, these things work great. If you are in an office sharing an Internet feed with various users, the NetEqualizer will keep aggressive bandwidth users from crowding others out. No, it cannot create additional bandwidth on your pipe, but it will eliminate the gridlock caused  by your colleague  in the next cubicle  downloading a Microsoft service pack.

Yes, there are other devices on the market (like your fancy router), but the NetEqualizer was specifically designed for that mission.

9) Bonus Tip: Kill All of Those Security Devices and See What Happens

With recent out break of the H1N1 virus, it reminded me of  how sometimes the symptoms and carnage from a vaccine are worse than the disease it claims to cure. Well, the same holds true for your security protection hardware on your network. From proxies to firewalls, underpowered equipment can be the biggest choke point on your network.

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.

Links to other bandwidth control products on the market.

Packet Shaper by Blue Coat

Exinda

Riverbed

Exinda  Packet Shaper  and Riverbed tend to focus on the enterprise WAN optimization market.

Cymphonix

Cymphonix comes  from a background of detailed reporting.

Emerging Technologies

Very solid  product for bandwidth shaping.

Exinda

Exinda from Australia has really made a good run in the US market offering a good alternative to the incumbants.

Netlimiter

For those of you who are wed to Windows NetLimiter is your answer

Ten Things to Consider When Choosing a Bandwidth Shaper


This article is intended as an objective guide for anyone trying to narrow down their options in the bandwidth controller market. Organizations today have a plethora of product options to choose from. To further complicate your choices, not only are there  specialized bandwidth controllers, you’ll also find that most Firewall and Router products today contain some form of  bandwidth shaping and QoS  features .

What follows is an  all-encompassing  list of questions that will help you to quickly organize your  priorities with regards to choosing a bandwidth shaper.

1) What is the Cost of Increasing your Bandwidth?

Although this question may be a bit obvious, it must be asked. We assume that anybody in the market for a bandwidth controller also has the option of increasing their bandwidth. The costs of purchasing  and operating a bandwidth controller should ultimately be compared with the cost of increasing bandwidth on your network.

2) How much Savings should you expect from your Bandwidth Controller?

A good bandwidth controller in many situations can increase your carrying capacity by up to 50 percent.  However, beware, some technologies designed to optimize your network can create labor overhead in maintenance hours. Labor costs with some solutions can far exceed the cost of adding bandwidth.

3) Can you out-run your Organization’s Appetite for Increased Bandwidth  with a One-Time Bandwidth Upgrade?

The answer is yes, it is possible to buy enough bandwidth such that all your users cannot possibly exhaust the supply.  The bad news is that this solution is usually cost-prohibitive.  Many organizations that come to us have previously doubled their bandwidth, sometimes more than once, only to be back to overwhelming congestion within  a few months after their upgrade.  The appetite for bandwidth is insatiable, and in our opinion, at some point a bandwidth control device becomes your only rational option. Outrunning your user base usually is only possible where  Internet infrastructure is subsidized by a government entity, hiding the true costs.  For example, a small University with 1000 students will likely not be able to consume a true 5 Gigabit pipe, but purchasing a pipe of that size would be out of reach for most US-based Universities.

4) How Valuable is Your Time? Are you a Candidate for a Freeware-type Solution?

What we have seen in the market place is that small shops with high technical expertise, or small ISPs on a budget, can often make use of a freeware do-it-yourself bandwidth control solution.  If you are cash-strapped, this may be a viable solution for you.  However, please go into this with your eyes open.  The general pitfalls and risks are as follows:

a) Staff can easily run up 80 or more hours trying to  save a few thousand dollars fiddling with an unsupported solution.  And this is only for the initial installation & set-up.  Over the useful life of the solution, this can continue at a high-level, due to the unsupported nature of these technologies.

b) Investors  do not like to invest in businesses with homegrown technology, for many reasons, including finding personnel to sustain the solution, upgrading and adding features, as well as overall risk of keeping it in working order, unless it gives them a very large competitive advantage. You can easily shoot yourself in the foot with prospective buyers by becoming too dependent on homegrown, freeware solutions, in order to save costs. When you rely on something homegrown, it generally means an employee or two holds the keys to the operational knowledge, hence potential buyers can become uncomfortable (you would be too!).

5) Are you Looking to Enforce Bandwidth Limits as part of a Rate Plan that you Resell to Clients?

For example , let’s say that you have a good-sized backbone of bandwidth at a reasonable cost per megabit, and you just want to enforce class of service speeds to sell your bandwidth in incremental revenue chunks.

If this is truely your only requirement, and not optimization to support high contention ratios, then you should be careful not to overspend on your solution. A basic NetEqualizer or Allot system may be all that you need. You can also most likely leverage the bandwidth control features bundled into your Router or Firewall.  The thing to be careful of if using your Router/Firewall is that these devices can become overwhelmed due to lack of horsepower.

6) Are you just Trying to Optimize the Bandwidth that you have, based on Well-Known Priorities?

Some context:

If you have a very static network load, with a finite well-defined set of  applications running through your enterprise, there are application shaping (Layer-7 shaping) products out there such as the Blue Coat PacketShaper,which uses deep packet inspection, that can be set up once to allocate different amounts bandwidth based on application.  If the PacketShaper is a bit too pricey, the Cymphonics product can also detect most common applications.

If  you are trying to optimize your bandwidth on a variable, wide-open plethora of applications, then you may find yourself with extremely high maintenance costs by using a Layer-7 application shaper. A generic behavior-based product such as the NetEqualizer will do the trick.

Update 2015

Note : We are seeing quite a bit of Encryption on  common applications. We strongly recommend avoiding layer 7 type devices for public Internet traffic as the accuracy is diminishing due to the fact that encrypted traffic is UN-classifieble , a heuristics based behavior based approach is advised

7) Make sure  what looks elegant on the cover does not have hidden costs by doing a little research on the Internet.

Yes this is an obvious one too, but lest you forget your due diligence!

Before purchasing any traffic shaping solution  you should try a simple internet search with well placed keywords to uncover objective opinions. Current testimonials supplied by the vendor are a good source of information, but only tell half the story. Current customers are always biased toward their decision sometimes in the face of ignoring a better solution.

If you are not familiar with this technology, nor have the in-house expertise to work with a traffic shaper, you may want to consider buying additional bandwidth as your solution.  In order to assess if this is a viable solution for you, we recommend you think about the following: How much bandwidth do you need ? What is the appropriate amount for your ISP or organization?  We actually dedicated a complete article to this question.

8) Are you a Windows Shop?  Do you expect a Microsoft-based solution due to your internal expertise?

With all respect to Microsoft and the strides they have made toward reliability in their server solutions, we believe that you should avoid a Windows-based product for any network routing or bandwidth control mission.

To be effective, a bandwidth control device must be placed such that all traffic is forced to pass through the device. For this reason, all manufacturers that we are aware of develop their network devices using a derivative of  Linux. Linux-based is based on Open Source, which means that an OEM can strip down the operating system to its simplest components.  The simpler operating system in your network device, the less that can go wrong.  However, with Windows the core OS source code is not available to third-party developers, hence an OEM may not always be able to track down serious bugs. This is not to say that bugs do not occur in Linux, they do, however the OEM can often get a patch out quickly.

For the Windows IT person trained on Windows, a well-designed networking device presents its interface via a standard web page.  Hence, a technician likely needs no specific Linux background.

9) Are you a CIO (or C level Executive) Looking to Automate and Reduce Costs ?

Bandwidth controllers can become a means to do cool things with a network.  Network Administrators can get caught up reading fancy reports, making daily changes, and interpreting results, which can become  extremely labor-intensive.  There is a price/benefit crossover point where a device can create more work (labor cost)  than bandwidth saved.  We have addressed this paradox in detail in a previous article.

10) Do you have  any Legal or Political Requirement to Maintain Logs or Show Detailed Reports to a Third-Party (i.e. management ,oversight committee, etc.)?

For example…

A government requirement to provide data wire taps dictated by CALEA?

Or a monthly report on employee Internet behavior?

Related article how to choose the right bandwidth management solution

Links to other bandwidth control products on the market.

Packet Shaper by Blue Coat

NetEqualizer ( my favorite)

Exinda

Riverbed

Exinda  Packet Shaper  and Riverbed tend to focus on the enterprise WAN optimization market.

Cymphonix

Cymphonix comes  from a background of detailed reporting.

Emerging Technologies

Very solid  product for bandwidth shaping.

Exinda

Exinda from Australia has really made a good run in the US market offering a good alternative to the incumbants.

Netlimiter

For those of you who are wed to Windows NetLimiter is your answer

Antamediabandwidth

Equalizing Compared to Application Shaping (Traditional Layer-7 “Deep Packet Inspection” Products)


Editor’s Note: (Updated with new material March 2012)  Since we first wrote this article, many customers have implemented the NetEqualizer not only to shape their Internet traffic, but also to shape their company WAN.  Additionally, concerns about DPI and loss of privacy have bubbled up. (Updated with new material September 2010)  Since we first published this article, “deep packet inspection”, also known as Application Shaping, has taken some serious industry hits with respect to US-based ISPs.   

==============================================================================================
Author’s Note: We often get asked how NetEqualizer compares to Packeteer (Bluecoat), NetEnforcer (Allot), Network Composer (Cymphonix), Exinda, and a plethora of other well-known companies that do Application Shaping (aka “packet shaping”, “deep packet inspection”, or “Layer-7” shaping).   After several years of these questions, and discussing different aspects with former and current application shaping with IT administrators, we’ve developed a response that should clarify the differences between NetEqualizer’s behavior- based approach and the rest of the pack.
We thought of putting our response into a short, bullet-by-bullet table format, but then decided that since this decision often involves tens of thousands of dollars, 15 minutes of education on the subject with content to support the bullet chart was in order.  If you want to skip the details, see our Summary Table at the end of this article

However, if you’re looking to really understand the differences, and to have the question answered as objectively as possible, please take a few minutes to read on…
==============================================================================================

How NetEqualizer compares to Bluecoat, Allot, Cymphonix, & Exinda

In the following sections, we will cover specifically when and where Application Shaping is used, how it can be used to your advantage, and also when it may not be a good option for what you are trying to accomplish.  We will also discuss how Equalizing, NetEqualizer’s behavior-based shaping, fits into the landscape of application shaping, and how in many cases Equalizing is a much better alternative.

Download the full article (PDF)  Equalizing Compared To Application Shaping White Paper

Read the rest of this entry »

NetEqualizer Superhero Animation Helps to Redefine the World of WAN Optimization


Lafayette, CO, February 2, 2010 — APconnections, a leading supplier of plug-and-play bandwidth shaping products and the creator of the NetEqualizer, today announced their new animation available for online viewing.

 Eli Riles, a consulting partner at APconnections, summed it up this way:

“Over the years, we’ve had several clients ask us for an easy way to explain how the NetEqualizer works. Well, our newest NetEqualizer video may be our best response yet. With the help of People Productions of Boulder, we’ve captured the NetEqualizer’s Network Optimization effectiveness in two new videos — one straight to the point and the other a little more detailed.

“So, if you’re looking for an easy way to explain exactly what you’re doing to make your network run smoothly, or are just in need of an overview of how the NetEqualizer works, take a look.”

To view the video: NetEqualizer Superhero Video

Welcome NetEqualizer Intern


Introduction from Art Reisman, CTO of APconnections
During a challenging economy, APconnections has remained committed to our customers and to our employees.  As part of this commitment, APconnections sponsors an internship program.  We believe that internships help talented, smart people get started in a new industry or technology area.  Please help us to welcome our new intern, Lynne, who will post to this blog periodically about her experiences at APconnections.

Thoughts from Lynne the intern:
I am starting an internship at APconnections, helping in the sales & marketing departments.  I’m really excited to get going on some of the projects that we have been thinking up, and mostly, to start interacting with you, our customers and prospects, to see what you are looking for from us.

My background is in IT, and I studied “management information systems” as part of my MBA, so I understand this product somewhat.  However, my career started in application development, and then moved to operations, and then back to application architecture.  So to say that I have focused on “applications” is an understatement!

Over my career in IT, I have also been a “generalist”, involved in projects as diverse as wireless, migrating O/S platforms and hardware servers, deploying websites, and rolling out ACH, as I enjoy learning all aspects of IT.  I have also project-managed, program-managed, and just overall managed stuff.   I have found in my “management” roles that I ended up being a de facto internal product manager for my software application.  I have become really interested in product management/marketing/sales and “product advocate” roles.  With the advent of social media, I’m really interested in taking this up a level for APconnections. 

This internship with APconnections gives me a chance to expand my experience in the IT product management/marketing/sales arena with a dynamic, growing, internet-based company.  I also think it is important to work with a product that I can believe in; it is obvious to me from the many repeat customers and “word-of-mouth” marketing that NetEqualizer has a recognized, compelling value proposition.

I hope to leverage my experience as a de facto product manager to help APconnections build a library of content.  My goal is to help encapsulate our expertise on networking, shaping, and all things related to bandwidth optimization into materials that help you, our customer.

As this is my first week, you can imagine that it has been learning all about “bandwidth shaping” and trying to figure out all the acronyms used in this space.  So far, I’ve picked up the following:  NIC, NAT, VLANs, VoIP, CF, and P2P.

I’ve read the entire FAQ (a good source if you want to see what questions people have on the NetEqualizer), the “Hitchhikers Guide to Network and WAN Optimization Technologies” White Paper (a fun read, I like that it is product agnostic), and of course reviewed the Online Demo (nice to see what the web front-end looks like – it is a real site!).  After all that, I still have some questions…  All that got me thinking…. if I was a management type trying to figure out what the NetEqualizer does (and I am), what would help me to better understand it?

My thoughts immediately turn to pictures, as I’m highly visual, and then of course to summaries, as who has time to review all the details!  On both those notes, here is what I’m thinking of putting together so far…

  1. 1 page picture(s) showing the Typical NetEqualizer Configuration
    (where to put it) by industry (if it differs)
  2. 1 page NetEqualizer Key Features & Functions Cheat Sheet
    Basically “what do I care about?”  in terms I understand (so-called management speak)
  3. Typical Network Traffic Flows, their sizes, and typical priorities
    To help management understand what VoIP, web pages, emails, video, real-time streaming video, and other typical types of traffic look like & behave like

And for you more technical types, I have thought of one thing so far…

  1. Cheat Sheet on the Default NetEqualizer Setup
    All the parameters that are set, all that are not, and what your options are to change these (and why). 

So that’s it for Week 1.  I will keep you updated on my progress throughout my internship.  I look forward to talking to some of you soon, to hear your thoughts!  In the meantime, if you have other ideas on what would help you (or me!) get up-to-speed on the NetEqualizer, networking, or the shaping world in general, email me at sales@apconnections.net.  Thanks!

Network World Blog missing the boat on Packeteer’s decline in revenue


The one thing bad about being a publicly traded company is that you cannot hide from your declining sales, in the following network world blog post and related comments ,the authors make some good points as to where and why they would choose Cisco Wan Optimization over Blue Coat and vice-versa. They also comment on all sorts of reasons why Blue Coat’s revenue in this area is declining , although they neglect one obvious reason.

Prices of bandwidth have fallen quite rapidly over the last 10 years. In some larger metro areas  Internet access runs for as little as $300 per month for 10 megabits. The same link 10 years ago would have run close to $5000 per month or more. Despite falling bandwdith prices,  WAN optimization solutions from the likes Blue Coat, Cisco and Riverbed, remain relatively high.  Many ptential WAN optimization customers will  simply upgrade  their bandwidth rather than invest in new optimization equipment.  You would think that vendors would lower their prices to compete, and they are to some degree; however the complexity of their core solutions requires a mimumum price floor.   The factors that create the price floor on equipment are related to, methodology  of the internal technology, and sales channel costs,  and unfortunately these fixed cost factors cannot keep pace with falling bandwidth prices .

Our prediction is that WAN optimization devices will  slowly become a commodity with automated reduced complexity. One measure of the current complexity is   all the acronyms being tossed around describing WAN optimization. The sales pitches filled with accronyms clearly corrolate that perhaps these devices are just too complicated for the market to continue to use. They will become turn key simple and lower cost or die. No player is bigger than the Market force of cheaper bandwith.

Related articles:

ROI calculation for packet shaping equipment

Does lower cost bandwidth foretell a decline in bandwidth shaper sales?

http://www.networkworld.com/community/comment/reply/46590

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