Weaknesses in the architecture behind the Internet mean that surfing can sometimes lead to slow speeds and a tiresome wait for a video to load.
Redeveloping the whole architecture of the Internet is an option recently discussed even by Internet pioneers. However, a group of European engineers decided to go the opposite way and to monitor traffic and tailor services to meet demand.
There is no single entity behind the Internet. It is made up of different networks that are managed by service providers. These service providers — or operators — manage what data is being sent and monitor the amount of traffic being used in terms of simple web browsing, multimedia streaming or peer to peer file sharing. When the data traffic on a network is too dense what experts call “bottlenecks” can occur, slowing the delivery of information to your computer, which can result in a slower Internet experience.
A EUREKA-backed project entitled TRAMMS (http://www.celtic-initiative.org/projects/tramms/), for Traffic Measurements and Models in Multi-Service networks, incorporating teams from Sweden, Hungary and Spain, aimed to solve this issue by gaining access to Internet networks run by operators in both Sweden and Spain and monitoring traffic over a period of three years. This gave them an excellent insight into user behaviour, enabling them to accurately measure network traffic so that in the future, service providers know how much capacity is needed and can avoid bottlenecks.
Taming the Internet beast
The particularity of this research project is that the team of experts taking part in it was given access to very sensitive data on Internet traffic measurements. Operators normally tend to guard this information jealously as it constitutes their core business. “Internet traffic measurements are very difficult to find if you are not an operator,” says Mr. Andreas Aurelius, coordinator of the project and senior scientist at Acreo AB, one of the project partners. Previous research in this field has normally been limited to campus networks, and limited to a geographical area. “That is one of the unique things about this project,” he says. “We were using data in access networks, not campus networks as most researchers do.”
The type of information the project monitored were designed to get an overall view of traffic passing through the networks. This included IP traffic (the flow of data on the Internet), routing decisions (the selection of which path to send network traffic), quality of service (giving priority to certain applications, such as multimedia) and available bandwidth. This was innovative as the partners developed new tools that measured traffic which gave a complete picture of a network. These tools, already targeted for use by many operators will make web browsing considerably faster.
“For everyday users, this means better quality for multimedia services over the Internet, like streaming for example” says Mr. Aurelius.
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