Overviewworkplace computer

Network traffic management deals with the process of monitoring and controlling the activities of network besides transforming the network into a managed resource by improving performance, efficiency, and security. It also helps to operate, administer, and maintain the network systems.

Types of Network Traffic

Networks accommodate an increasingly complex set of data traffic. Identifying the type of traffic will help network administrators to facilitate the optimization of the network. Various types of traffic are:

Network traffic table
Current Internet Traffic Status

Today’s Internet traffic is very different from that of early days’ internet. As it is growing exponentially with ever-increasing web pages, full length movies, software applications, and online games, the need for an effective network traffic management is on the stage. Some of the facts and figures are:

  • According to a survey conducted by Ellacoya Networks over a sample of about 2 million broadband customers, HTTP traffic consumes 46% and P2P traffic consumes 37% of network bandwidth. YouTube alone consumes 20% of all HTTP traffic, or more than half of all HTTP streaming video.

broadband traffic pie chart

  • In a report, Cisco Systems Inc predicted that about 60% of all consumer IP traffic will be generated by commercial video services or IPTV in 2008. It also mentioned that high-definition video services and high-speed broadband will see IP traffic almost double every 2 years through to 2011.
  • Deloitte & Touche in its assessment predicted that global traffic will exceed the Internet’s capacity as soon as this year.

With the huge increase in the internet voice calls and the flow of business worth billions of dollars over ordinary ISP networks, the network congestion or traffic jam will become increasingly common. It makes the life on the internet more difficult for users. Lot of serious online hiccups will make the download speeds crawl to a standstill and internet will no longer provide the guaranteed quality of service or security required by the current applications.

Bandwidth Management

The process of measuring and controlling the traffic on a network link so that overfilling the link can be avoided is called bandwidth management. It helps to keep the internet connection working fast and smooth. To manage bandwidth, traffic is measured, analyzed and the cause for heavy traffic is identified. Then network traffic control tool is used to avoid unwanted traffic and schedule bandwidth usage.

Due to various aspects, the communication links will not reach maximum capacity. The link utilization should be below the maximum theoretical capacity of the link so that fast responsiveness can be ensured by eliminating bottleneck queues at the link endpoints. Issues that limit the performance of a link are:

  • The capacity of a connection is determined by TCP through flooding until packets are dropped.
  • Higher latency is created due to queueing in routers.
  • With the network reaching its capacity, TCP global synchronization results in waste of bandwidth
  • Bursty traffic requires spare bandwidth
  • No proper support for explicit congestion notification
  • Queue management is controlled by Internet Service Providers

Traffic Measuring – Packet sniffers look at individual packets and help to track tricky problems. But they are voluminous and require the knowledge of network protocols. So traffic measuring tools are used to get broader view of the amount and type of traffic on a particular network. Some of the tools include:

  • Caligare Flow for NetFlow monitoring and detecting network anomalies
  • Exbander Precision for monitoring and analyzing
  • FireBeast for bandwidth management and traffic shaping.
  • PRTG for monitoring bandwidth usages.
  • Sandvine Intelligent Network Solutions for measuring and managing network traffic

Traffic Shaping – An action on a set of packets to impose additional delay on those packets so that traffic on the network can be controlled for optimized and guaranteed performance is referred to as traffic shaping. It helps to control the volume of traffic sent in a specific period. Normally, it is applied at the edges of the network to control the entry of traffic, but sometimes, it is applied at the source or by an element in the network.

Rate Limiting – A method to control the rate of traffic sent or received on a network interface is referred to as rate limiting. When a traffic is less than or equal to the specified rate, it is sent and when it exceeds the specified rate, it is dropped or delayed. It is performed in the following ways.

  • Policing – It discards excess packets and can be applied to any network protocol including IPv6.
  • Queuing – It delays packets in transit and can be applied to any network protocol including IPv6.
  • Congestion control – It manipulates the protocol’s congestion mechanism and can be applied to TCP.

IPv6 Traffic Management Techniques

  • XRMON – XRMON captures network traffic levels and users across the network with a very little overhead to the infrastructure.
  • sflow – sflow is a standard for network traffic monitoring and accounting as per the specification in RFC 3176. It gives complete visibility into the use of network and helps in optimizing the network resource.
  • NetFlow – Netflow is an open network protocol developed by Cisco Systems to collect IP traffic information.
  • IPFIX – Internet Protocol Flow Information eXport (IPFIX) is an IETF standard based on Netflow version 9. It exports
  • Internet Protocol flow information from routers, probes, and other devices.

Other Network Traffic Management Tools

  • Traffic Prioritization Tool – It improves the quality of service on the network besides blocking the competing services. It minimizes latency and allocates bandwidth on data networks.
  • Network Resource Management Tool – It tracks, records, and monitors the current capacity of the system besides controlling the resource allocations.
  • Network Inventory Tool – It helps in the audit of software and hardware elements of the network computers.
  • System Management Tool – It is used for steady monitoring of server performance and availability.