March 19th, 2009

jim

An interesting exercise in network management

For those of you who aren't naturally interested in sports ... the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament begins today.  And so, while lots of people (like me) are stuck at work, CBS is streaming every game on the Internet.  In the past, this sort of thing has tended to be unpredictable in its reliability, as nobody's quite sure what the demand will be on the servers, much less everyone's local network, as all the sports geeks tie up the 'net watching games.  

(Ah, I can remember the old days of the 'net, when the entire network was brought to screeching halt when the website for Showgirls went live, and everyone was trying to look at half-naked pictures of Elizabeth Berkley.  (Or, at least, that's what I was told.  I certainly wouldn't have tried to access that site.  [cough])

So, I fired up the viewer today out of curiosity, and discovered an incredibly interesting feature.  On the control panel is a slider which allows the viewer to pick the streaming bit rate quality ... along with a recommendation that "if your viewing is interrupted by frequent buffering, consider reducing the streaming rate".

This is cool, particularly from an academic perspective.  In essence, it's taking the problem of network management and distributing much of it down to the client level.  People can figure out for themselves what the best bit rate is simply by watching the performance they're getting, and adjusting accordingly.  No need for centralized monitoring of the system; the system essentially monitors itself.

There's something profound going on here.  I like it.

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