Olympics and network contention

The network in the University environment is an interesting beast.  Some people would consider it a bit of the “wild west”, while others would probably say it is a very monitored and controlled environment.   In reality it lies somewhere in between.   We don’t shape the traffic on the main campus network  and we generally don’t monitor activity.   That being said, we do monitor such things as overall usage (not individual usage) and contention to help us manage the environment and ensure good performance.   If something is wrong, we need to know and respond quickly.

Most people would like us to have a network with unbounded bandwidth, but that wouldn’t be fiscally prudent.   Currently we have two commercial links of 1 Gbps and 2Gbps, respectively, as well as a research link at 10 Gbps.    On most days this really acts like a bottomless cup of coffee and people don’t experience contention.  The design also gives us good redundancy if one of the links were to go down (as happens occasionally).

All this flies out the window during the Olympics.   If you look at the graph in the link below, you can see that we did saturate the network occasionally, during the week of Feb.10th.   The level of activity is about 2x the norm.   It was especially high around noon, which is usually when there was a hockey game.   So – what do we do in these situations?   It does not seem to have elicited any complaints.  Personally, I have noticed minor slow downs, but nothing significant.  It appears the contention happens on the commercial links where people stream content, and given peering, some of our normal ‘business’ travels over the research link which has greater capacity.

So, for now, we will continue to monitor events and we will not try and ‘shape’ the traffic.  Hoping that the Olympics continue to be scheduled during reading week :-)


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