Provisioning for Network Capacity in modern environments is a complex process that requires the holistic consideration of your entire business context. With the vast number of applications and services expected as part and parcel of enterprise networks today, the discipline of Network Capacity Planning takes on new dimensions, and renewed importance as a fundamental part of running an efficient network. In this blog, we take a look at some modern Network Capacity Planning and Quality of Service (QoS) techniques and the benefit they can provide to your organisation.

Good Network Managers never skip their classes

Today’s network environment deals with vast quantities of data across many different media, and provisioning the right amount of bandwidth for the data requirements of your organisation is essential. Traditionally, Network Managers would solve the problem of insufficient Network Capacity by simply “throwing more bandwidth” at it, or provisioning more data for the network as a whole. However, the limitations of this methodology in today’s context are easy to see: If the extra data isn’t being used in the right places, you might as well not bother.

The solution to managing asymmetrical data requirements is the implementation of classes. A Differentiated Services Code Point (DSCP) is an IP packet field that allows different levels of service to be assigned to network traffic. Essentially, DSCPs make it possible to set up a hierarchal data structure that works with the specific requirements of your network to ensure sufficient bandwidth is available for high-priority functions at the right time. It’s important to point out that increasing your total bandwidth and configuring class hierarchies are equally important – your classes specify the percentage of total bandwidth allocated to each data type, but are still limited by the total bandwidth available to your network.

By the same token, good DSCP implementation prevents resources from being dedicated to unimportant data channels in times of shortage. For example, a telecommunications network would likely allocate far more bandwidth to voice data than streaming video services, as providing voice service to customers in times of bandwidth shortage is more important in terms of fulfilling SLAs than allowing users to watch YouTube videos during peak voice traffic.

Have a clear idea of your data priorities

Setting up DSCP protocols is not limited to placing data classes in order of importance – it’s equally important to configure burst thresholds and targets for each. “Bursting” refers to the temporary opening of one class into another when Network Capacity is threatened. To return to our example of the telecommunications company, it would be advisable to burst voice data into streaming video or best-effort classes. An ISP, alternatively, may choose to burst browsing traffic into VoIP or bulk data services. It’s possible to configure multiple classes to burst into one, or vice-versa, so your Network Capacity plan can be tailored to your specific context. Ultimately, the nature of your business and the unique demands of your network should guide your decision.

QoS and DSCP are two sides of the same coin

Ultimately, the purpose of QoS is to ensure consistently acceptable levels of network service. There are several factors to take into account when determining QoS levels, and DSCPs are but one of many. However, the value that DSCPs and, more importantly, an intelligent class and burst strategy, can benefit several other network functions that are typically considered in QoS measurements. This doesn’t mean that you should neglect other QoS metrics, but rather that many network functions considered for QoS will benefit from a thorough DSCP protocol.

Your choice of software partner can be equally as important as your Network Capacity strategy. IRIS is a trusted provider of Networking Software that offers reports on QoS class drops and incorrect configurations to ensure optimal Network Capcity planning and intelligent QoS Implementation. To find out more about what IRIS can offer your network, download a free copy of our Network Manager’s Guide to a Stable and Highly Available Network today.

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