Packet delivery is a key element of network quality and essential for the successful transfer of larger data sets, or time-sensitive transfers.
Packet delivery is the successful transfer of a packet of data from point A, to point B. Poorly tuned networks, networks that are experiencing hardware or software faults or networks that are congested will drop packets. This directly affects the quality of the user experience and the integrity of the information transferred.
Commercial vendors accept packet loss. The amount that is acceptable depends on the type of traffic being sent. As an example, many consider 1 – 2.5% packet loss “acceptable” for streaming video. This manifests as buffering, skipping or out-of-sync audio. However, a major differentiator of research and education networks is our aim to eliminate packet loss – as packet loss is catastrophic for large data transfers which are typical for our users.
When you suffer packet loss, not only can you lose the real-time data being sent, but network protocols will exponentially cut the speed of your transfer, until all packets are successfully received. For example, a 2 Petabyte dataset transferred over a dedicated, 10Gbps connection with 0% packet loss takes 2.5 days to transfer. If you suffered only 0.002% packet loss, the transfer could stretch out to 3,926 days – making work impossible. Minimal packet loss means experiments can be reiterated much more frequently, with many times faster outcomes.
This is not only about science productivity and the speed of research, but the return on investment from research funding, and the type of research and analysis that is able to be conducted at all. Future use of international science and research platforms will rely on this performance.
That’s why REANNZ, and other NRENs around the world, prioritise keeping their R&E networks un-congested, and have alarms and regular performance testing to monitor and eliminate causes of packet loss.
In our past financial quarter, we reported an average packet delivery of 99.9999994% percent across our network backbone. That’s less than 0.0000001% packet loss; or only six packets in every billion. That number in and of itself demonstrates the extent of our commitment.