Tying together remote offices has long been the playground of expensive, dedicated circuits, and lately, MPLS services. However, the spread of business-class DSL and cable Internet services has led to higher-bandwidth links becoming available in more places.
The downside to that is that most business-class broadband connections can't be relied upon to deliver consistent bandwidth, which can cause reduced service and WAN problems.
Sampath Ramaswami is the Senior Director of Strategic Development at Hughes Network systems. In this blog post, he details how Hughes is addressing this problem by constantly measuring the available bandwidth of a circuit, then adjusting dataflows accordingly. -- Paul Venezia
Making broadband enterprise-ready with end-to-end quality of service
MPLS has for years remained the preferred choice of many IT managers to connect their branch sites together -- despite the limitation of speeds capping out at 1.5Mbps (T1), few evolutionary improvements, and bandwidth costs more than 10 times that of broadband. Meanwhile, broadband infrastructure, driven by major investments in recent years, is affordable, robust, capable of delivering high capacity, and available almost everywhere, with major providers delivered an average of 97 percent of advertised speeds, even during peak hours.
A key reason why enterprises are willing to pay the MPLS premium over the possible alternative of a broadband private network is that broadband cannot provide end-to-end quality of service (QoS)/class of service(CoS). While a residential consumer might be willing to tolerate slow performance on a key application (such as online banking) due to the impact of lower-priority traffic (say, a streaming movie), such a trade-off is not acceptable in an enterprise environment.
In the past, QoS over broadband end to end has not been achievable. Key parameters like capacity, latency, and packet loss may change abruptly as the network experiences congestion, without providing any indication to premises devices. Furthermore, bulk traffic is handled exactly the same way as real-time traffic, since the broadband network doesn't honor CoS markings set at the edge.
WAN optimization with a twist
The good news is that viable solutions are now available for the next-generation distributed enterprise WAN over affordable broadband-- without paying the MPLS premium. Hughes ActiveQoS is a performance optimization technology that enables real-time QoS over broadband connections, capable of converging real-time voice, video, and data.
ActiveQoS is WAN optimization with a twist. Whereas typical WAN optimization delivers QoS control, application acceleration, and increased virtual bandwidth, the QoS is effective only over leased access circuits such as a T1, with fixed deterministic capacity end to end. Broadband networks, on the other hand, have a variable delivered capacity, and typical router-based prioritization methods are fundamentally ineffective in delivering end-to-end QoS control.
Hughes ActiveQoS employs a number of innovations to deliver true QoS control over broadband. ActiveQoS analyzes the end-to-end broadband connection at each branch location in real time to determine the current capacity, then rate-limits traffic based on the observed capacity. By dynamically balancing ingress traffic to available network capacity on a site-by-site basis, true end-to-end prioritization is enabled, as is the delivery of real-time traffic with controlled jitter and packet loss. For example, ActiveQoS-optimized VoIP can deliver toll-quality audio (MOS 4.0) even on a congested link, and Web performance improves by a factor of four.
Enterprise broadband: Enabling the next-generation WAN
Recent major shifts in business and IT strategies have put a significant strain on data networks, especially for highly distributed organizations, such as those in retail and related industries and government public services departments. The rapid growth in the use of cloud services and mobile applications, including guest access, Wi-Fi, and video usage, are demanding high levels of service and performance availability across the WAN. Next-generation networking solutions for distributed organizations need to deliver on five major requirements:
- High capacity: Up to 3Mbps to 6Mbps for small branches, and up to 10Mbps for others
- Robust security: Premises and network-based security
- Flexible connectivity: Secure connectivity to the Internet directly from branch sites
- Application performance: Consistent, predictable performance for real-time and data applications, including emerging cloud-based services
- Reach: Delivery of next-generation capabilities to all sites, not just selected large ones