Good news for the Internet: a team of Europe’s best Internet researchers have come together to make the Internet faster, without having to invest in more capacity.
They have noticed that many Internet sessions don’t need more bandwidth to go faster, they need less delay, also known as latency. They already have a number of ideas up their sleeves to cut delay. These merely require smarter code in your operating system (e.g. Linux or Windows) or in network equipment. This is definitely a case where working smarter not harder will pay dividends – smart software tweaks, not just heavy investment in more hardware capacity.
In fact, Internet speed is increasingly becoming limited by delays setting up connections and getting up to speed. These delays are induced by having to keep to the Internet’s protocols – the standardised procedures that computers use to talk to each other. It’s time to revisit those protocols, otherwise solely throwing money at more hardware capacity will have little or no effect on the speed of the Internet.
Project co-ordinator, Andreas Petlund from Simula Research Laboratory in Oslo said “Bandwidth is only about how many bits you can transfer per second, but speed is about how long it takes to complete a task. This depends on how long it takes for even a small message to get from A to B, and how many back-and-forth messages the protocols require even before data transfer can start. Then, it can take a few more rounds of messages to get up to speed while the computers sense how much network capacity is currently available. All this goes on under the hood, every time you click a Web page, or encounter a new scene in an online game.”
The team has just met in Oslo to launch their new project, called Reducing Internet Transport Latency (RITE). They have been granted research funding under the EC’s Framework 7 programme to deliver solutions over the next three years. The project consortium consists of Simula Research Laboratory (Norway), Alcatel-Lucent (Belgium), BT (UK), Institut Mines-Telecom / Telecom Bretagne (France), the University of Aberdeen (UK), Karlstads Universitet (Sweden) and the University of Oslo (Norway). The principal investigators already have a strong track-record in delivering new code in Linux, and new Internet standards to ensure their ideas are coded into software throughout the Internet.
The project has lined up facilities in the partner firms to test the software it delivers for a range of applications:
- Alcatel-Lucent will test RITE’s results for running interactive video applications on its broadband network products, because low delay is critical for natural conversation.
- As well as being interested in Al-Lu’s video results, BT will test the project’s outputs for the BT Radianz Cloud platform, which supports the world’s largest secure networked financial community. Michael Cooper, the CTO of BT’s Radianz Services said “Ultra-low latency is critical to dealing and financial information services, and BT is keen to see if enhanced standard Internet protocols can outperform bespoke finance software.”
- Simula will be testing how much the project can improve the online gaming experience, where a millisecond’s delay can make all the difference between life and death.