Mysterious QoS Device

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
Tom Keating
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Mysterious QoS Device

A confidential source informed my about an intriguing QoS module, which I will definitely have to do some research on. (As if I didn't have enough of a backload from being on vacation for 9 days. <sigh>)

I think his email explains it quite nicely, so I will share it here:

I just came back from a trade show where I spied this mysterious board. I saw this blinking blue LED and asked the booth guy about it. Apparently, this is something new called a “net accelerator”. It is a kind of QoS-in-a-box that analyzes your internet connection and the traffic on the link, and configures itself. Supposedly it detects all kinds of applications on its own. This is so that you can do VoIP, online games, file sharing, video, etc. on the internet at the same time and they don’t clobber each other. The guy said that it shapes traffic into “streams” that share the connection. It has a special chip from a company called Ubicom that was designed to identify each stream, and assign its priority in real-time. Apparently, they use this technology in D-Link’s gaming routers, but those products have the chip embedded inside. They were calling it “StreamEngine”. He said that these accelerators are going to be sold by “major OEMs” in about a month. I tried to get the actual names from him, but he just laughed.

I tried googling on net accelerators and got nothing.

I thought you would like to know about this. I managed to snap a picture with my camera phone when he was talking to someone else. <End>
LOL! I have covert operatives snapping pictures for me. If anyone else wants to send me "covert" pictures, by all means. I could go somewhere with this. Nah, I'll leave it at that.

Ok, I found 5 minutes to do some research. It's actually Ubicom's StreamEngine Net Accelerator, which I recall reading was responsible for delivering QoS for Quake 3 online play. In fact, according to Ubicom, with QoS enabled, "Quake 3 doubled the playability during heavy background traffic." Ubicom developed algorithms and techniques to assess in real-time the available bandwidth, then applied advanced packet-by-packet analysis and inspection techniques. It combined these technniques into the StreamEngine software package for intelligent stream handling and advanced peer-to-peer networking, and bundled it with a hardware platform based on its IP3023 processor with memory, voice pump, ipOS multithreaded operating system and support for Atheros Communications' 802.11 radios. The Linksys WRT54GS is one router with this QoS technology built-in.

The StreamEngine has Qos techniques such as automatic traffic classification, rate matching, priority queueing (with 255 priority levels), dynamic fragmentation of packets to reduce delay for high-priority traffic and adaptive fragmentation where fragmentation is determined by the uplink speed. The latter is optimized for voice.

So now the mystery question is, "Who else besides Linksys is deploying or soon will be deploying Ubicom's QoS technology?"

Checking D-Link's site I see something called "GameFuel Priority" for the D-Link DGL 4300. It states, "GameFuel™ Priority powered platform reduces latency and boosts network efficiency and performance". I wonder if GameFuel is merely an OEM'ed version of Ubicom's StreamEngine? That is, they simply changed the name to something "cool".

I also wonder why they're promoting "game" priority for packets when voice prioritization is also an important factor when purchasing a router? I guess gaming "trumps" VoIP in the "buzz" factor.

In the Features list it does at least promote VoIP prioritization. i.e. "Intelligently manages and automatically prioritizes network traffic to better execute bandwidth-sensitive applications including VoIP and multimedia applications."

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