A clever start-up this week will introduce a kind of valve for Internet access points that will let network managers control the flow of traffic in and out of their domains for the first time.
Packeteer, in Campbell, California, will unveil PacketShaper, a hardware/software combination that allocates network bandwidth to avoid the burst-and-delay performance that frustrates Internet users. Analysts are praising the approach for its unique control and simplicity.
PacketShaper enforces policies that define which users or applications can use how much of the precious available bandwidth. The definitions are based on the priority of user access.
For example, managers or webmasters can balance free-for-all TCP/IP access to a server from local network, intranet and dial-up connections to prevent a few high-speed users from dominating a Web site. They can guarantee a minimum level of service for a vital activity, such as reporting sales or making purchases.
In the struggle to improve Internet performance, PacketShaper complements load balancers but doesn't require new protocols or changes to routers, clients or servers. Each unit costs US$7250 and is inserted between a router and hub or server.
"Other approaches rely on a handshaking scheme to negotiate quality of service, but this plops down in an existing network," says Bobbi Murphy, principal analyst at Dataquest in San Jose, California. "It's a slick way to control flow without overhauling everything."