Network Traffic Shaping 101: Optimizing your Network Performance

Network Traffic Shaping
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Insufficient network bandwidth impedes the efficiency of business operations. Yet, increasing bandwidth costs money. Network traffic shaping helps by prioritizing critical business applications over other data types.

A significant portion of an organization’s network traffic may be used by staff for personal usage, such as email, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media.

Traffic shaping ensures that vital business applications and data have sufficient bandwidth to operate properly. It discourages users from utilizing bandwidth-intensive applications that are not required, particularly during peak business hours.

Ultimately, traffic shaping helps to assure a higher degree of performance, enhance the quality of service (QoS), reduce latency, maximize useable bandwidth, and boost return on investment (ROI).

What is Network Traffic Shaping?

Traffic shaping is a network bandwidth technique to optimize network performance. The purpose is to increase your bandwidth usability by prioritizing certain packets of data and reducing latency.

It may be tailored to match the unique needs of your business or application. In general, there are two methods to implement traffic shaping: application-based traffic shaping and route-based traffic shaping:

Application-Based Shaping

In application-based shaping, the network router can be configured to prioritize particular apps, allowing data packets to be routed more rapidly.

Let’s assume your network bandwidth is used by two applications: a VoIP-based application, such as an IP softphone, and a web or Internet browser. Both types of applications send data encapsulated in packets. However, the VoIP data packets must remain together to have a meaningful conversation and, therefore, must be prioritized.

Another option is to designate a portion of the network to phone calls, ensuring the transmission of these packets is sent smoothly and fast. However, this reduces bandwidth useability, which is why many businesses prefer prioritizing voice data.

There are several limits to application-based shaping, the most notable of which is the use of encryption to evade this shaping.

Route-Based Shaping

Route-based traffic shaping implements packet-restriction rules depending on the source and intended destination of the previous address of a packet.

This form of shaping is often used to prevent apps from evading application-based shaping restrictions.

Why do Organizations employ Traffic Shaping?

Any network has a limited amount of bandwidth. This limitation makes traffic shaping through bandwidth management an essential tool for ensuring the functioning of crucial applications and the delivery of time-sensitive data.

Traffic shaping is an adaptable method for ensuring service quality and defending against DDoS assaults that abuse bandwidth. It prevents network assaults from overwhelming network resources, protects networks and applications from traffic surges, and controls abusive users.

Network Traffic Shaping: What are the Benefits?

Using network traffic shaping to manage and optimize your network performance offers several benefits:

  • Network traffic acceleration
  • Cost-effective alternative to adding more bandwidth
  • Network congestion avoidance through the identification of abnormal bandwidth consumption
  • Blocks malicious IPs
  • Helps meet the service-level agreements (SLAs)
  • Improved application performance
  • Prioritizes transmission of critical applications
  • Offers end users guaranteed tiered service levels
  • Reduces unwanted traffic
  • Maximizes allocation of bandwidth and resource/critical app utilization
  • Reduces jitter, delays, and packet loss for real-time voice streams caused by overloaded network interfaces with non-essential traffic

Traffic shaping ensures that vital data and business applications have sufficient bandwidth to operate effectively.

Ultimately, traffic shaping improves the quality of service (QoS), performance, useable bandwidth, latency, and return on investment (ROI).

Understanding Traffic Shaping and QoS

When traffic comes at a typical pace, traffic shaping is not used. Acceptable traffic rates indicate that the system is initially working well. However, traffic coming quicker than the specified rate will be held in a buffer until it can be securely sent out at a lower rate.

This is to ensure a high quality service is maintained. Quality of service (QoS) practices recognize that network quality parameters will affect various applications in many ways, depending largely on user needs. As a result, QoS techniques are adaptable in determining the “optimal” service levels for different types of applications.

VoIP or Voice applications are an excellent example. This is because while voice traffic does not need a lot of bandwidth, it does not tolerate packet loss or delay.

However, bandwidth is the primary component when downloading a huge file via a TCP connection since packets can be retransmitted to compensate for packet loss.

There are numerous critical elements for appropriate QoS network implementation:

  • Traffic Classification: Better application traffic shaping rules to different traffic classes can be achieved by analyzing the various kinds of applications and traffic on the network
  • Marking: So that all devices in the traffic route may easily apply needed policies, mark classified traffic with tags. MPLS Experimental bits, IP Precedence (IPP) bits, and Differentiated Services Code Points (DSCP) bits are typical tags that device makers depend on to generate default profiles for various traffic classes.
  • QoS Policies: The purpose of traffic categorization and marking is to ensure that QoS regulations are applied consistently to packets. Congestion avoidance, such as weighted random early detection, congestion management and queuing, and traffic policing, are typical QoS strategies linked to traffic shaping.

Traffic Shaping vs Policing

Traffic shaping and traffic policing are sometimes mistaken for one another, but they must be distinguished. To begin with, they are not synonyms but rather distinct functions with distinct outputs.

Traffic policing operates in bursts, marking or dropping extra traffic when the system’s maximum rate is reached. It activates when traffic surpasses what it should.

As such, traffic policing is unsuitable for applications such as VoIP. Because surplus data packets are dropped when traffic surpasses the limit rate. This results in an uneven data flow, providing a poor experience for the user.

In contrast, traffic shaping works to achieve a smooth traffic flow. Traffic shaping keeps extra packets in a buffer or queue instead of remarking them. The extra packets are transmitted over time as traffic allows, resulting in a smooth curve.

Traffic shaping requires a suitable buffer or queue for delayed packets; traffic policing does not.

Another problem is that traffic shaping, which involves queueing up packets to be transmitted later, is only applicable to outbound traffic. Because incoming traffic is the domain of traffic policing, true inbound traffic shaping does not exist. Scheduling is also required for traffic shaping, so delayed packets may be sent later from separate queues.

Since traffic shaping and policing are two distinct strategies, the user must decide which will be most effective in each case.

Next Steps: Implementing Network Traffic Shaping in your Organization

Traffic shaping is a common network optimization method that helps you maximize the value of your bandwidth. It guarantees that vital applications receive precedence over others by delaying traffic, making it a very beneficial strategy for enterprises and ISPs.

Traffic Shaping Features

The best traffic-shaping software tools, packages, and solutions typically share features:

  • Logical Bandwidth Separation Capability: It is vital to analytically evaluate and categorize traffic and split the available bandwidth among them. This is critical for enabling independent traffic flows for various user groups, subnets, or ingress traffic shaping, isolating several sites with varying bandwidth requirements behind a single point of entry.
  • Intuitive Policy Management: Traffic shaping rules should be predictable and straightforward so that administrators may be certain that they will provide the intended results when implemented.
  • Flexible Bandwidth Configurations: Administrators must have the freedom to combine and number bandwidth rules to match organizational requirements.
  • Dynamically Adjustable: Bandwidth must adjust dynamically as new devices, and hosts join the network to better support work from the home, remote employees, and bring your device (BYOD) trends. Some businesses may need to create rules for equitable bandwidth sharing, limit the number of devices, or limit the amount of bandwidth available to each particular device.


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