What to Look for in Bandwidth Managers

Bandwidth manager should conduct the core of your network automation - similar to a conductorBandwidth managers are becoming fundamental components of any WAN network that needs to manage real-time traffic (also called “sensitive traffic”) in the network. Business processes rely more and more on cloud-based applications and therefore need to utilize the limited Internet resources wisely. Although standalone bandwidth managers exist, it is more likely that you will have the bandwidth manager built into your firewall or multi-wan router, as having the bandwidth manager capabilities closer to the access side of the network enables advanced QoS features, which is also an integral part of bandwidth management.

So what do we mean by “bandwidth manager”? At a high level, bandwidth manager usually refers to the orchestration and resource allocation of the Internet resources. Historically, bandwidth managers have been primarily used to traffic shape the outbound traffic (traffic generated in the local network and is in the egress direction) to cope with congestion. This helps with keeping certain service levels for users. There are, however, additional newer features that you should look for in a modern bandwidth manager:

1) Dynamic traffic shaping:

Newer bandwidth managers have the ability to adjust the traffic shaping metrics dynamically. This means that the carved out bandwidth that you set aside for your VoIP calls can still be utilized by other applications, as long as there is no VoIP contending for the same bandwidth. Legacy traffic shapers will only limit traffic statically, therefore creating inefficiencies. Try a full file download and initiate a VoIP call as the file is being downloaded. With a dynamic traffic shaper, you should see the full bandwidth utilized until the VoIP call is initiated and then the file download scaling back, leaving just enough room for the VoIP call to go through without problem.

2) Multi-WAN bonding:

Today’s enterprises require the highest reliability and redundancy that they can get on their WAN connectivity. Therefore, more and more businesses rely on ISP diversity in building their networks. Bandwidth managers that can understand and speak “multi-wan” are critical to ensure everything works in harmony. This is the primary reason to consider Broadband Bonding and bandwidth manager capabilities from the same vendor to guarantee fully integrated solution.

3) Application-Centric bandwidth management:

Being able to differentiate between IP packets that belong to a YouTube download vs a video conferencing application and accordingly orchestrate WAN resources should be available from your bandwidth manager. In other words, the bandwidth manager should be able to identify and allow client-specified treatment of flows that belong to different applications.

4) Going beyond simple rate limiting:

Although a majority of bandwidth managers will rely on limiting traffic by simply creating a bottleneck queue via actively dropping packets, this approach can be restrictive if used alone. Modern bandwidth managers not only traffic shape but also take into account many other metrics that go into making decisions on how to manage the WAN resources. Metrics such as latency, jitter, packet loss, and various other time-dependent characteristics can be and should be leveraged by the bandwidth manager. As an example, optimizing a file transfer requires quite different measurements and related resource allocation decisions compared to a live video transfer.

Even though there are various options for managing bandwidth in enterprise networks, not all bandwidth managers are created equal. We hope the above points will help our readers in their research and decision process for their next-generation bandwidth managers.

Cahit Akin, CEO, Mushroom Networks, Inc.

Mushroom Networks is the provider of SD-WAN (Software Defined WAN) and NFV solutions capable of Broadband Bonding that enables self-healing WAN networks that route around network problems such as latency, jitter and packet loss.



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