taking policy to the
smart connected device

Archive for August, 2010

Demon Gamers

Written by GoS on . Posted in Blog

Demon Internet, one of the top 10 ISPs in the UK by number of subscribers, have recently announced an Internet connection service tailored specifically for gamers. Recognising the demand from this online community who require a high quality Internet connection, and more importantly are willing to pay for it, Demon have set this package up and are now aggressively marketing it.

In a highly competitive market place, Demon have chosen to differentiate one of their packages by prioritising certain traffic types, in this case, gaming. While those who staunchly support net neutrality (all packets are treated equally) will oppose this move, the gaming customers of Demon will be cheering. While playing Counter Strike, the last thing you want to happen is for the activity of other network users to affect your gaming traffic’s latency. In fact it is very easy to saturate the uplink of a regular ADSL connection, so even background traffic from your own computer can degrade your gaming experience. It is at this point of contention on the network where prioritising traffic types makes the largest impact, and subsequently to the users’ enjoyment of whatever they happen to be doing. Of course there are other points of contention on the network, which Demon is well positioned to be able to cope with.

Moving beyond gaming, it is easy to see that packages can be created and tailored to each market segment, as long as there is the network capacity for the converged traffic streams (Demon point out that their main subscriber base consists of business customers, so the gaming package will not affect other users, due to the different peak times). Even further, we can imagine a situation where the ADSL router can dynamically adjust its QoS settings for individual users, depending on their usage patterns and the overall load of the network.

This is the promise of a highly flexible QoS based infrastructure: the ability to give customers exactly what they want.

The End of Flat Rate Pricing Means a New Beginning for QoS

Written by GoS on . Posted in Blog

Flat rate pricing plans (FRPP) have been terrific for driving network and service adoption. Overall, FRPP may have contributed significantly to network revenues, but have done little for the average margin per user. Research from Ovum suggests that mobile broadband success will lead to a 48% CAGR in global data traffic between 2008 and 2013, but only result in 5% CAGR in terms of revenue. Yet service providers and network operators will have to invest heavily to meet the capacity demands. This doesn’t seem like good business.

But FRPP are coming to an end. It’s well recognised that continued growth and continual price decline will seriously damage the industry. By differentiating traffic types and developing new price models that treat synchronous and asynchronous traffic differently, or offer users the ability to obtain faster delivery rates for their preferred traffic, network operators and service providers can seek to charge for different levels of service.

To be effective and to create a real opportunity, network operators and service providers will have to track bandwidth usage and application requirements by subscribers by monitoring the traffic – and then taking the data captured and implementing enforcement policies to ensure that the correct priority or rate is applied. Since different applications demand different QoS profiles, service providers will be able to offer QoS as a value added service, with a range differentiated QoS policies being the result. GoS provides a range of solutions that help network operators and service providers monitor and enforce QoS at the critical point of the network boundary. QoS is not some arcane element of network engineering; measuring and enforcing QoS will become fundamental to extracting value and returns from the network.

Priority, importance and QoS

Written by GoS on . Posted in Blog

In talking to someone at a conference recently, I was reminded how much confusion there is around the concepts of “priority” and “importance” in relation to network QoS. He was talking about his “most important application”, and assumed that its packets should automatically be treated with the highest priority. In fact this is often not the best thing to do! In everyday life, “top priority” usually means “do this first” but any good book on time management will tell you to distinguish what’s urgent from what’s important. Given limited time (and what other sort is there?) it’s better to focus on important tasks and ignore trivial ones (like checking email), however pressing they may seem. Likewise when managing QoS on a network link it’s essential to distinguish between packets that shouldn’t be dropped (router updates, for example) from those that need to be forwarded quickly (like VoIP). Some QoS mechanisms only offer only one type of priority, forcing a difficult choice, since using the top priority class for packets that don’t really need urgent forwarding reduces the capacity to handle ones that do (so, less VoIP), but not using it risks losing packets that really need to be transmitted (so, router flap).

A more sophisticated mechanism (such as GoS) allows independent prioritisation with respect to packet loss and queuing delay, so that the QoS needs of different applications can be met without wasting resources. If every application can be given the QoS it needs, then the question of which is actually more important doesn’t arise. Only when there’s a capacity crunch does a choice need to be made, and then the most important application may not be the one needing the lowest packet loss or the shortest delay; but it will be the one whose QoS needs must be satisfied first when deciding how to allocate resources.

Peter Thompson, Chief Scientist