The Digital Agency for International Development

The Future of Bandwidth Management?

By Chris Wilson on 12 September 2013

Who should do it?

Who should be doing Bandwidth Management? Who benefits/would benefit most from it?

  • Universities
  • Small organisations
  • Internet providers (ISPs)
  • Anyone with a shared connection (finite resource)

Why should they do it?

  • To download important documents and files
  • To make VoIP work
  • To reduce complaints from users (University VCs get a lot of complaints)
  • To avoid abuse of contended resources (ISPs live on contention ratios)

How can we do it?

Two main approaches:

  • Quality of Service (QoS) guarantees, traffic shaping
  • Traffic quotas (BCrouter, RADIUS, pmacct, pmGraph)

Quotas tend to be used:

  • by large organisations
  • where all users are approximately equal (e.g. ISPs, students in a university)
  • where it's hard to block certain types of traffic (politically or practically)
  • and it's OK to penalise some users for legitimate heavy usage


  • Linux TC
  • BSD PF and ALTQ
  • Untangle (free download or hardware boxes)
  • NetEnforcer
  • PacketFence
  • Packeteer
  • Cheap Linux-based routers and APs
  • RADIUS 802.1x authentication

Why do we not do it?

  • Tools exist, but:
  • Extremely high level of technical skill required to do it well
  • (Over-)Simplified by expensive commercial tools with point-and-click interfaces
  • High cost in time (free) or money (commercial)
  • Lack of commitment/policy from institution/organisation management
  • Lack of value? Or lack of recognition of value?
  • Lack of funding/finance for promotion, training, tool development

What can we do about it?

Things that might encourage more people to adopt good bandwidth and network management:

  • Encouragement/support/training from NRENs to universities
  • A roving team of experts: NREN, UbuntuNet or Network Engineers Without Borders (NEWB)
  • Need to ensure that we build capacity instead of leaving an unsustainable solution
  • Persuade senior management of the opportunity costs/alternatives: "you can save money by optimising your existing connection instead of upgrading"
  • Online learning programme for cheaper mass distance education
  • Self-paced learning programme with accreditation
  • Stop trying to develop better GUIs for open source and give in to commercial alternatives?
  • Sponsorship for training from vendors, publishers, Facebook?

And one particular tool proposed: a speedtest/bandwidth map that lets (university) users measure their own network performance (page loading times), rate them, and compare with other institutions in the area. Reasons:

  • Empower non-technical users to understand their situation
  • Empower them with hard evidence to present to senior management
  • A public commendation/embarrassment/incentive to organisation management
  • Try to get to the top of the league table!
  • Provide data for the bandwidth map (web accessibility) project

How to make it happen:

  • Hack day to create the software
  • Tell people about it in AfNOG
  • Encourage publishers to link to it from their PDF download pages