The Network Demands of the Home Office

As the world has moved online for communication, studying, parties and events, the Internet connectivity from the home has gained immense importance. I find that there are multiple d emands on the bandwidth on the broadband link from the home ranging from VPN connectivity to the offices, Zoom/ Google Hangout meetings for online education from the school, YouTube for videos/ music, Netflix/ Amazon Prime/ content provider of choice and so on. From the perspective of a single household, the situation is very similar to a coffee store that offers free Wi-fi, for example, that may have a few guests accessing the Internet. Like in the coffee store, there are multiple demands of the single available pipe of network bandwidth. All the different devices and applications compete for the available bandwidth, which is ultimately, finite. Once the available bandwidth is completely used, any further traffic is dropped. This, of course, is somewhat similar to the traffic on the roads. Roads have a finite capacity and often, the capacity is over subscribed resulting in traffic jams.

During the traffic jams, when there arrives an ambulance or a vehicle with a red light, the traffic parts to make way for the health or dinner party emergency as the case may be. For the Internet access from the home, however, such a parting of the seas does not exist. Selfishly, I would like my VPN traffic to the office to always have high priority and it must not be dropped/ stopped at any time. My connectivity to the office must be the VIP for whom the traffic is cleared on all roads. The rest of the network traffic originating from the house can also be prioritized as per the needs of the household. Unfortunately, my wi-fi router at the home does not recognize the applications that are traversing through it. Which means that it cannot prioritize the traffic appropriately. All the traffic is squeezed into the single available Ethernet link terminating at the local switch. I need a solution that allows me to set adequate priorities for the different application traffic. Moreover, a complete solution to the problem needs to ensure that my office VPN traffic is prioritized all the way through till it reaches the Head Qaurters.

Prioritization of network traffic has been around for decades, included in the fundamental building block of the Internet today, the IPv4 protocol. It is called Quality of Service (QoS). QoS has evolved into a term more apt to the needs of the industry today – Application based Quality of Experience (AppQoE). Where QoS works only on the IP packets, AppQoE ensures that the experience delivered to the end-user is pertinent to the Application that is being consumed. With AppQoE, your Netflix video can be streamed at high quality while the rest of the house struggles to even search on Google, for example. This end-result is achieved by inspecting the traffic at the connection point and ensuring that the application traffic is prioritized and delivered at a high quality. Think of it as similar to the Minister’s wife who makes it to the salon appointment on-time, thanks to the excellent co-ordination between the security forces and the traffic policemen. If you happen to be late for a movie because of the stoppage in traffic, well, too bad. The Netflix video is the Minister’s wife in this example. The others in the house wanting to view the latest recipe will have to experience much slower speeds. To achieve a result such as this, the network nodes need to work in conjunction, understanding the signals provided by each other and ensuring the less important traffic is buffered and delivered as a best-effort service.

AppQoE forms the heart of the Software Defined Wide Area Network (SDWAN) solution that is offered by network infrastructure vendors across the globe. The ability to securely transmit network traffic based on applications has been a long-standing demand for the branch office/ retail store/ coffee shop. SDWAN solutions offered by networking vendors address this need and moving forward, will add the ability to protect the data in transit and at-rest at every point in the network. In the present and (when we get to it) post COVID-19 era, with the branch office moving to the home, isn’t it time for such a technology to be offered at the home too? Wouldn’t you love to work from the home with reliable and assured bandwidth? Simply increasing the bandwidth plan to the next level is not the solution. Effective utilization of the available network bandwidth is needed and SDWAN for the home is the answer you are looking for.

If there are vendors in the market already offering this solution for the home office, it’d be nice to know. They would have a jump start on the next step of the evolution in the market for addressing an emerging need.

Residing in Bengaluru, I am a Techie by profession and a thinker and doer by birth. I muse about any topic under the sun and love to share my thoughts in print when I am not doing something with them. I love reading and at some point, thought that maybe others would like to read what I have to write, too!

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