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The Beginning...

The Beginning...

The Beginning...

Introduction For those that don't know me my name's Dave Tomlinson and I'm a member of the PlusNet Comms Team. You may recognise me from such places as the portal forums, Usenet or service status. Recently I've also become involved with the product team looking at traffic management. A key function of this role involves looking at future developments and events that are likely to drive changes in customer behaviours and ultimately impact our network.. The aim of this blog is not only to provide information on day to day management but also to engage our customers to discuss what’s going to happen in the future. Only by sharing information can we ensure we’re managing the network to its optimum and providing the right experience to our customers. I don't expect to see an overnight change of opinion from “traffic management is just a way of stopping people from downloading” to “its the greatest thing since cheesy peas!”. What I do hope is that by sharing information people will start to understand the whats, whys and the hows of traffic management and see that it isn't the big evil some but an essential tool if a service provider is to provide a high Quality of Service for the interactive traffic they want to use whilst sat at the PC or in front of the TV. The best and most recent example I can give is Wii Mario Strikers. We received numerous complaints from customers that it was unplayable. So we bought a copy, played the game, monitored traffic, identified the default port, configured the network to ensure it’s marked as gaming and now no more complaints. The blog will help us to be more pro-active in identifying new games, technologies and applications and ensure that customers are kept up to date with the changes we make and also feed back to us upcoming changes that we need to make as opposed to having to make re-active changes on the back of customer complaints. Event Calendar To get the ball rolling I recently made this post on the PlusNet Community Site about the start of an Internet Event calendar. The idea of this is to track what's happening out there on the Internet so that we can be ahead of the game so to speak. We know from historical monitoring of traffic levels that something like Microsoft patch Tuesday will cause an increase in HTTP download traffic in particular on the Tuesday evening around 8-10pm and the Wednesday morning. By planning for events that can cause spikes in usage or where perhaps new gaming or VoIP signatures are required we can be proactive rather than reactive. Games can be configured before or as they go on sale and we can adjust the rules to take into account for high demands from one off events. This weekend for example is Glastonbury weekend and there's plenty of coverage from the BBC over the next 10 days and then on Monday it's the start of Wimbledon fortnight with streaming video available. What we can therefore do with the traffic management is plan for events like this and ensure the bandwidth is available and that the Quality of Service is there for that bandwidth. It can also work the other way around so that in quiet times we can allocate the spare bandwidth to non-interactive traffic like P2P or Usenet. By properly managing the traffic on our network we can ensure that period of high demand can take place without impact on interactive traffic. Anyone playing an online game for example when the network is busy wouldn't see an increase in latency because of the high priority given to gaming traffic. We can also use the event calendar for tracking new websites and new services. In the past year or so YouTube is one website that's taken off in an incredible way. Ellacoya's stats (PDF) show that nearly 10% of all Internet traffic is YouTube, up from 7-8% in just a few weeks. Joost in another site that's starting to hit the radar hitting about 1% of traffic in USA this month and growing at a rapid rate. In the UK the British broadcasters the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are looking at a single broadband distribution service codenamed Project Kangaroo. Both of these applications could easily surpass YouTube in the UK bandwidth charts. It's not just YouTube and Joost, an hour of surfing MySpace can easily eat 400MB of bandwidth whilst the 2.5 minute HD trailer for Rush Hour 3 from apple.com is about 190MB. With Apple TV due to allow YouTube videos any day now it's not hard to see where this is leading. And it's the Quality of Service that our traffic management provides that will ensure that services like this work. By planning now for what's happening out there we can stay ahead of the game and this is one area where the community can help play a key part. There's only so many hours in the day so planning for every event and eventuality isn't going to be easy but with a little crowdsourcing we can create a more thorough calendar of events so not only catching the biggies like Joost, the next Windows Service Pack or the next big online game but the smaller things as well that could become the next YouTube or have a lesser impact on the network. It's an interesting time ahead and I hope my little post hasn't been too boring, any feedback on what you'd like to hear on the subject of traffic management would be appreciated and can help guide what you want to hear in future posts. My intention is to try and post at least one post a week and try and cover anything of interest, what's changing out there on the Interweb and how that effects us and you.

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Taking on board what you are trying to achieve one area just sprung to mind as regards network load. The Steam system not only allows downloads of new games but also automatically downloads updates, which can be quite large , when you try to play a game - causing a significant delay in the game starting. How is this handled by the system as playing on line using Steam servers may come into the same category.
Plusnet Staff
I'll have to find that out because I'm not exactly sure. Leave it with me and I'll do some digging.
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[...] capacity. And by being prepared through things like the event calendar I talked about in a previous post helps us to be one step ahead as best we can and ensure we can plan for changes brought about by [...]