Extremely high network speed and reliability have become critically important for a number of research and educational applications around the world. End users expect data to travel at speeds unimaginable just ten years ago. Bandwidth overload is often considered the best remedy for performance problems, as “fatter pipes” would allow more data through and resolve any observable delays or loss. Unfortunately, bandwidth alone cannot solve all performance problems. While those with superior technical know-how can nearly always use a system to full (or near full) potential, the average user often experiences less than optimal performance and has nowhere to turn for help. Internet2 has always held that Quality of Service (QoS) will solve reliability problems experienced through the commercial Internet. Harnessing the technical know-how of networking “wizards” Internet2 has developed a series of tools that identify common networking problems and aid both network administrators and end-users in the resolution of difficult performance problems. Through the participation in performance measurement networks campus engineers and end-users can now work together to resolve end-to-end performance problems.
End-to-End Performance Initiative
The end-to-end performance initiative (E2Epi) is creating a predictable and well-supported environment in which Internet2 campus network users have routinely successful experiences in their development and use of advanced Internet applications. This initiative is improving performance problem detection and resolution throughout networking infrastructures. E2Epi is establishing a performance measurement infrastructure across Internet2 campuses and labs, performing analysis of the end-to-end path, and establishing a normal operational mode where network operations, applications, and the end-user easily can determine network capabilities and restrictions. In addition, the E2Epi is developing systems for gathering and disseminating information such as campus best practice guides, troubleshooting tips, and known problems and solutions. This overview of activities includes work projected for 2004.
Alpha University will benefit greatly from participation in this performance-focused initiative. The deployment of measurement beacons throughout and at the edge of campus will improve the overall network performance both within the campus and to collaborating campuses and facilities. Improved network performance meets our constituents’ expectations for the availability, reliability and speed of campus networks. Measurement beacons and tools reduce the time required to identify, locate and resolve most network performance issues by readily isolating the problem.
Measurement is as much about policy and procedure as it is technology. To receive the maximum advantage from a network measurement infrastructure, an institution-wide commitment is needed. All paths within the network and servers on the edge must participate in regular testing to provide consistent and informative measurement data. The process of locating and resolving problems becomes more of a community effort building trust and camaraderie among network engineers and end-users alike who must work across traditional boundaries to solve performance problems.
A measurement infrastructure, like the network itself, is a strategic resource that can be leveraged into multiple services across the institution.
Benefits of Measurement
The benefits of measurement beacon deployment are improved quality of service, empowered end-users, full utilization of network capacity, and improved network reputation. To fully understand the impact measurement can have on the reputation and performance of the network one must consider the capital and operational costs associated with such an initiative. We believe that gains can be realized almost immediately upon installing measurement beacons and that doing so will lay a strong foundation for future networking activities.