How many times have you experienced or heard the following: “The Internet is really slow because my kids are streaming something”? In a world where data delivery rates (speed) keeps going up, this should no longer be an issue – but it is. To keep it simple, let’s look at the residential impact of streaming.
Video streaming is disruptive because of how it works. It is not a stream at all. It is a series of file transfers that happen periodically, without the control of the person watching the video. Technically, it works like an old-time fire engine – the pumper kind. A bucket brigade puts buckets of water into the pumper wagon, fast enough to keep it from running dry, meanwhile a steady stream of water goes out the hose – the stream side.
In the Internet and browser world, the bucket is called the replay buffer and the hose is a media streaming application or plug-in. The stream content is played in real-time (a constant rate), and the replay buffer or bucket is refilled in time so that is never goes dry (when it does go dry, you see the buffering symbol in your browser).
It’s really a simple concept. But it can be very disruptive to multiple users on a LAN sharing a single Internet connection. The source of the video stream is a server somewhere on the Internet. Your browser or streaming player application makes contact with the server, thus creating a video session. The session is monitored by both ends, exchanging information about how fast the connection is between the server and the player. Now comes the trouble…
Let’s say you are on a newer residential connection that the ISP rates as 100Mbps. That’s pretty fast. The video server and the streaming laptop both recognize that the end-to-end speed is 100Mbps. So, the video server is going to fill the replay buffer at a rate of 100Mbps. Great! But what about the other 25 devices connected to the network? They will be momentarily starved out since the video server is trying to monopolize the entire ISP connection until the buffer is filled. And it might even try to increase the size of the replay buffer in order to save resources on the server side. Now multiply that by a couple of kids or co-workers watching various streams and the problem escalates into poor performance for everyone. Expand this out to a business, hotel or campus and you have a nightmare size of problem.
OK, so we will restrict video streaming in order to allow everyone a good experience. Sorry – cannot be done. You might be able to restrict access to Netflix. But what about news sites, other complex web sites, corporate training… Suddenly, everything is a steam. If it moves, has embedded video or audio – it is likely a disruptive stream. The only way to control this behavior across the panoply of stream types is with a network access performance device. A new concept networking equipment. This is the realm of CirrusWorks.
CirrusWorks builds and distributes network performance management as gateway devices for schools, dorms, hotels, general enterprise. Our patent-pending technology calms the disruptive behaviors of streaming and downloads, creating user fairness in new ways that do not need to understand the content being shared. But still keeping up with required video playback speeds. We envision this technology making its way all the way out to residential. So that you can someday say, my kids don’t own my Internet connection anymore.