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March 20, 2008

The Dilemma of Shared Bandwidth

By Brian Solomon, TMCnet Web Editor

Broadband networks all share a common opportunity and a common problem: modern technologies provide for easy deployment of high-speed Internet connectivity, but share bandwidth among users. Shared bandwidth presents interesting challenges, especially in the over-subscribed environments that our financial constraints require us to deploy.

End users will naturally consume as much bandwidth as they can. In fact, they are constantly encouraged to do so by sites with ever more bandwidth-eating content and applications. Networking protocols inherently facilitate this consumption with windowing protocols that attempt to increase packet rates to the maximum extent possible. It has often been remarked that bandwidth consumption is like a gas, it increases to fill the maximum available space.
Bandwidth management technologies help provide order in what would otherwise be chaotic grab for bandwidth by end users. Bandwidth management technologies regulate bandwidth consumption. They enable maximum utilization and associated revenues by allowing the maximum number of users on a network. They provide the infrastructure for tiered services. Bandwidth management also controls costs: no need to add capacity until absolutely necessary. Finally, bandwidth management technologies can improve customer satisfaction by ensuring that all users get their fair share of network bandwidth.
WAN and Application Acceleration are great technologies. They can effectively increase the total bandwidth available to users and applications. Unfortunately, they suffer from two major problems:
1) They don’t work in secured environments like VPNs.
2) Because they don’t manage the users and applications, they ultimately give more bandwidth to abusive applications and users often resulting in negligible gains for the important traffic.
Brian Solomon is a Web Editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To see more of his articles, please visit Brian Solomon’s columnist page
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