Companies like Netgear, Dlink, Linksys and Belkin have made networking easy. These days, to create a network, it’s simply plugging a cable into the network port on your computer and the other end into the router and away you go. Although this is OK for your small network at home, it might not meet your needs for your video-editing network.
In my time in this industry I’ve learnt that editing from multiple machines to a shared storage requires a lot of bandwidth. I thought I would share a couple of things to think about that might help you to get just that little bit more out of your network, by either implementing a couple of configuration changes or adding a little bit more hardware.
Link Aggregation is a very cost effective way of increasing the throughput on your network. The idea behind it is to make 2 or more network connections into one theoretical connection to increase the throughput beyond one connection - essentially a bigger pipe. Link aggregation also provides redundancy in networks. In this case the more the better, as if one of your links goes down, the aggregation will adjust itself to use the remaining connections. Of course you will see a hit in the performance, but it's like a car's engine loosing one of its cylinders.
Many, if not all, operating systems support link aggregation in one form or another. Typically, in Linux and Mac OS X it’s called "bonding", Windows calls it "teaming". Although they are called different names, it’s basically the same concept.
Newer managed network switches would most likely support link aggregation and it’s usually just a couple of check boxes and button click to configure.
Just BEWARE, if setup incorrectly it can create havoc on your network and bring the whole thing to a grinding halt. The Managing Director will be knocking on your door asking why staff can't get their emails, browse the internet or why their computer has crashed.
10-Gigabit Copper Ethernet
I think 10 Gigabit Ethernet speaks for itself. When your need is speed, 10Gbe is fast becoming the standard, especially in the video editing industry. A few years ago 10Gb only existed in the back-end of corporate networks and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and was usually based on Fiber. The development of copper Ethernet (Cat 6 & Cat 6A) and hardware vendor’s network cards has made it possible and more affordable to implement.
Many storage devices now offer expandable chassis where 10Gb Network Interface Controllers (NIC) can be installed which you can directly connect to your 10Gb NIC on your computer or through a 10Gb switch, allowing full 10Gb Ethernet throughout your storage LAN. Theoretically 10Gb is ten times the speed of your standard 1Gb Ethernet connection. In reality it all depends on your current configurations and requirements. But in my option, anything faster is better in the computer world.
Segregated networks / VLANs
Networks are similar to a crowded room where everyone is talking to each other at the same time. If you ever look at a program that monitors network packets from your computer, it’s quite hard to keep up with what’s going in and out. If you slow it right down, it’s actually a very sequential process with order and queues, but I’m getting off the point. The point is there is a lot of traffic on your network, which can slow down what you’re trying to achieve. DNS request, authentication request, broadcast packets and a lot of other chatter on your network can slow down your request for accessing files on your NAS. A way around this is to separate your network traffic by adding another network either using additional hardware or configuring VLANs.
1. Additional Hardware
Adding additional switches, patching and network cards is one way to achieve this. In simple term, if you have a corporate LAN and a dedicated storage LAN all the request for Internet, authentication, DNS, etc. would go through the corporate LAN and any request for files on your storage would go through your storage LAN.
If you really want to get the most out of those expensive network switches, you can configure VLANs to separate the network. Personally, I would still recommend having 2 network cables connecting from your machine to the 2 ports configured on 2 different VLANS on the one switch (If that makes sense).
The concept behind computer networking is sending data between 2 locations. The units of data that are sent back and forth are called packets and a group of these packets is called a frame. In general networking these days a frame size no bigger than 1500 bytes is usually the standard Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU) set on your network card.
Without going into to much technical detail about it, jumbo frames is essentially increasing the frame size from 1500 bytes to 9000 bytes of data. This not only effectively increases the time it takes to send data across the network but also decreases the amount of overhead needed on the hardware. The throughput increase with Jumbo Frames is effectively because of the reduction of frames that is needed to send and less CPU cycles to process these frames.
There are some things to think about when using jumbo frames.
- 1500 MTU and 9000 MTU don’t talk to each other. There are ways around this using routers but this becomes messy and difficult to manage. The best way to implement jumbo frames is to create a separate network. Most network switches these days support jumbo frames but usually it's either on or off for all ports on the switch. There are higher end switches that support per port jumbo frames but you need to pay for this type of functionally. If you do have a switch that supports per port, separating the network becomes easier with VLANs meaning less hardware (switches) is required.
- Gigabit Ethernet or more is required. You cannot turn on jumbo frames on your wireless network, which also means that any device that is connecting to your network at 10 or 100Mbps will have issues.
If you do have the devices and infrastructure in place, Jumbo frames are a great way to get a little more out of your network.
If you really have money to spend, invest in a fiber channel network. They do require more expensive hardware and software, but if setup correctly nothing can compare to its speed and performance. But honestly, copper based Ethernet is catching up fast.
If you find yourself just feeling frustrated with your slow network, or you think it’s just not performing like it should, any one of Digistor’s tech team will be more than happy to assist with improvements and what can or can’t be implemented.
Implementing one or more of these might be just what you needed to push you over the line.