The Bandwidth Bandwagon

The Bandwidth Bandwagon

What happened to balance?  When we want to accomplish a goal we become laser focused on one thing only and abandon everything else. Do we just love one size fits all, or any easy magical pill? Each time we look back and realize that focusing only on that one thing made things worse. Here are a few examples that I’m sure we’re all guilty of:

Focus/Metric Goal
Bigger Engine Faster Car
Fat Free Foods Health
Money Happiness
Education Success

The list is endless. By focusing on one metric only, we ignore or even sacrifice all the other also important metrics, resulting in a much poorer overall result in the end. The most apparent for me today is how we all jumped on the bandwidth bandwagon and got trained to buy MORE!

I remember purchasing data lines based on burstable bandwidth, committed information rate (CIR) and many other variables. All of these metrics are important but when you have a CIR of 32K on a 128K burst circuit and trying to stream media across it, the bandwidth metric trumps all others. This is where things went wrong…

Providers caught on to the “we need more bandwidth” and everyone was willing to sacrifice CIR, traffic shaping and have all packets marked “Discard Eligible” just to get MORE BANDWIDTH. The broadband era was born with only one focus, deliver more bandwidth at the cheapest price!

Today on broadband, even if you have 300Mb, it still feels slow, and we keep asking for more bandwidth, not realizing that we’ve not just ignored, but sacrificed all other metrics.

Broadband has 3 levels or measurements of bandwidth

  1. Total raw bandwidth – this is what you see on speed tests
  2. Usable bandwidth
  3. High quality bandwidth

Let’s use an example, if you have 50Mb of raw bandwidth, you could have 45Mb of usable bandwidth and 30Mb of high quality bandwidth. As long as the entire load stays below 30Mb, everything will perform at high quality (not considering QOS). As soon as the load goes above 45Mb, all the traffic, including the first 30Mb now suffers at poor quality because you are now in the “raw bandwidth” zone.  If you try to increase your overall bandwidth for 50Mb to 100Mb, you are actually increasing the ability for your data line to maintain that poor quality zone for all traffic. Essentially you are paying more to have less, by adding more of that one already bloated metric.

A partner setup an Arkanis router connected to MDS OmniShield. The Araknis is an excellent router. The VPN throughput (for various technical reasons I won’t get into) is capped at about 55Mb. The next day after installation, the partner asked if we’re doing any QOS because it seems like the voice is much better and overall internet seems to be faster. He went back on site and ran a bandwidth speed test to find out that his 200Mb line is now running at 55Mb. Instantly this speed test result turned his happiness into misery. He ran it again and again with the same result. He called saying if we couldn’t get his bandwidth back up to 200Mb they would have to remove the MDS security solution “We want to be able to use all the bandwidth we are paying for” he said. It was clear that the speed test would not show 200Mb, so they removed MDS. Now they have 200Mb of “raw bandwidth” which is shown by the speed test, and they continue to suffer from poor quality and unsecure internet.

There is much more to internet than bandwidth, let’s bring back the balance and improve the overall result!