TELCOS and Internet service providers (ISPs) are having a hard time keeping up with the amount of data traffic that’s increasing every day, thanks to YouTube, peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing and the proliferation of social networking sites.
One solution is to increase the size of the “pipe” — the actual data lines that carry data from other countries to here — but the cost is prohibitive because it requires the physical laying down of undersea cables.
“Telcos spend billions of dollars every year to ensure that they have enough bandwidth to offer their services,” said Datuk J. L. Solomon, executive chairman of NGT Solutions (M) Sdn Bhd.
“Where once companies had to deal with voice traffic only, today voice is not a big issue in the pipe. It’s the data services which is draining resources and creating congestion.”
NGT Solutions has the answer in NGLink, a compression technology the company has created for IP (Internet Protocol) traffic.
Fifteen years ago, NGT Solutions got its start by offering compression for voice traffic over circuit switched networks which is used by local operators like Maxis, DiGi, Celcom and Telekom Malaysia.
“However, we are moving from the legacy TDM (time division multiplexing) in circuit switched networks to packet switching where IP is used to transmit everything, including voice,” said Solomon.
NGT Solutions claims that NGLink can increase bandwidth by a minimum of 25% over any existing optimisation and caching solutions a telco is currently using.
How it works
Before getting into the explanation of how NGLink works, it’s perhaps pertinent to understand how the Internet pipes work here.
Instead of a direct line to every country, Malaysia connects to other countries like the United States and Britain via a single port of call where international lines converge. For Malaysia, the host countries are Hong Kong and Singapore.
The international pipline is shared by a number of Asian countries, with each country then pulling a dedicated pipeline from Hong Kong and/or Singapore.
While the longest pipeline (say, from USA to Hong Kong/Singapore) itself is relatively cost effective as it’s shared by many countries, it’s the final link from the host country to Malaysia that has to be borne almost entirely by the local telco.
It is also this final link to our country that limits the maximum bandwidth especially because the cost of adding larger pipelines is a very costly affair and may cost in the billions of ringgit.
Therefore, local telcos and ISPs are trying to get around this by implementing solutions like optimisation, which inspects data passing through the pipeline and limits the bandwidth taken up by certain kinds of traffic.
For example, some ISPs curb the bandwidth taken up by P2P traffic while allowing more bandwidth for voice and data.
Another method of improving the Internet experience for users is to use caching, which as the name suggests, caches commonly accessed data at the local server.
This helps prevent the international pipeline from getting saturated with constant calls for the same data — video hosting sites like YouTube, for example, tends to benefit the most from caching.
Solomon claims that NGLink compression solution can, on top of other optimisation and caching techniques, increase bandwidth by at least 25%, and even more than that if no optimisation and caching is used.
The NGLink Encoder software has to be installed at the server in the country that hosts the shared pipeline (in this case, Hong Kong and/or Singapore) and at this end, the NGLink Decoder has to be installed on the ISP’s server.
When traffic comes in through the servers in Hong Kong/Singapore, the NGLink Encoder analyses the incoming data on the server and replaces the larger repetitive byte chunks with much smaller signatures.
The compressed data then travels down the pipeline to this country, where the NGLink Decoder resident on the local servers replaces the smaller signatures with the original data, which then gets sent out to the users.
To the user, this happens transparently because at the consumer end, the data arrives in its full uncompressed form.
Works over existing solutions
According to Solomon, unlike traffic shaping, NGLink is content and format agnostic, and can coexist with other caching solutions as well because it optimises data by eliminating repetitions in the bit-stream.
NGLink promises at least a 20% to 25% increase in bandwidth if the ISP already employs data caching and if there is no caching solution employed, the bandwidth increase can be as high as 30% to 40%.
Just to put this into perspective, a 1GB line with no caching solution is able to transfer approximately 1.3GB to 1.5GB of traffic with NGLink enabled.
NGLink however, does not handle VoIP traffic, which is already compressed, although video traffic can be optimised by the solution even though it is usually non-compressible.
NGTS is currently shopping the solution to all the local telcos, including Maxis, DiGi, Celcom and Telekom Malaysia but the company is not limiting itself to just local businesses.
“NGT is a Malaysian company so we’re starting here first, but we are also looking to sell it to telcos in Thailand, India, Indonesia, Singapore and the Phillipines,” said Solomon.
The company is also offering a free analysis tool that can be remotely deployed to servers on both ends that will analyse actual live traffic and give a report on how much bandwidth can be saved by using the solution.