A Practical Evaluation Method of Network Traffic Load for Capacity Planning
Communications network operators are supposed to provide high quality network service at low cost. Operators always monitor the amount of traffic and decide equipment investment when the amount exceeds a certain threshold considering trade-offs between link capacity and its utilization. To find the proper threshold efficiently, this paper proposes a practical threshold definition method which consists of fine grained data collection and computer simulation. We evaluate the proposed method using commercial traffic data-set. The results show the proper timing for the equipment investment.
KeywordsCapacity planning Traffic monitoring Traffic load testing Queuing simulation
The largest mission for communications network operator is to provide high-quality network service at low cost, but there always exists trade-off between quality and cost. To ensure quality of network service, it is crucial to keep traffic load of the link below a certain threshold level and to upgrade the link capacity immediately after the load exceeds the threshold. From the viewpoint of the capital expenditure, on the other hand, this threshold value should be set to high so that traffic can be accommodated into the link as much as possible. Thus finding the appropriate threshold value is the main effort for capacity planning.
Traffic load is typically observed with a monitoring tool such as MRTG  (Multi Router Traffic Grapher) in terms of average volume during several minutes, because watching traffic load with finer granularity requires computing resources. Considering practical use, the threshold mentioned above should be represented as the ratio of average traffic volume in minutes to the original link capacity. For example, the threshold would be 80 % if five-minute average of 800 Mbit/s is the maximum load for a certain GbE (Gigabit Ethernet) link so as not to degrade quality. However, averaging through minutes masks information about burstiness of traffic on each link. In the case of bursty traffic where the difference between the instantaneous peak and several-minute average is large, probability of packet loss would be high compared to the case of traffic where such the difference is small even though average loads in minutes are equivalent. Thus capacity for links with bursty traffic should be upgraded earlier than links with not-bursty traffic. A lot of past work addressed characterizing traffic burstiness [2, 3, 4, 5, 6], but there are no generalized models which can be applied to individual network operating and/or planning task because network structure, network usage, and applications on network are quite diverse nowadays.
For the purpose of obtaining an appropriate threshold of upgrading capacity for each link, we propose a practical method to evaluate traffic load considering its burstiness while satisfying the target level of packet loss ratio. Furthermore, we also evaluate this method using commercial traffic data-set in an operator’s network.
2 Proposed Method
According to Eq. (1), Q[n] will be updated each time n is increased, which means a packet arrives at the queue. This process will continue until n reaches N.
Determine p and B based on the operation policy. Calculate the value of m of a data-set X we focus on. Determine C low and C high for initial values of R. We used C low = m and C high = 10 m as the initial values, respectively. In addition, dC should be determined as the terminal condition. In this simulation, we employ 100 kbit/s as the value of dC.
Perform the queuing simulation based on Eq. (1) in the both cases of C low and C high . The values of N loss for both cases are obtained through the simulation. Note that the simulation will be terminated, if N loss exceeds p·N during the simulation.
Repeat Step 3 until C high – C low < dC. Then the value obtained is C opt . We define ρ as m/C opt , which is the key indicator for capacity planning. This is because the value of ρ represents maximum allowable ratio of traffic load to meet the target quality for the link.
3 Simulation Result and Discussion
There are not purely theoretical methods to calculate the value of ρ, because ρ is determined by quite many factors. The possible factors affecting ρ are the number of nodes where the traffic goes through, services and applications generating traffic, customers where the network is targeted for, and so on. This paper, however, does not focus on these factors because these factors themselves are not so important from the viewpoint of practical capacity planning. The largest interest for practitioners is “when do I need to increase the capacity?”. The answer is when the observed mean rate reaches original link capacity C multiplied by ρ. Since the mean rate is able to be predicted using conventional techniques of time-series analysis, the appropriate timing for enhancement of capacity can be easily estimated. If a practitioner collects some datasets on a certain link and calculates ρ corresponding to each dataset, the lowest value of ρ should be applied to the link against the unexpected excessive load while it depends on operator’s policy. Note that we assume that the value of ρ of the future, which is the time when total traffic volume increases, should not be significantly changed. Figure 5 supports this assumption.
While research related to burstiness of traffic have been studied in these twenty years, network operators might still rely on their experienced knowledge. Since real traffic is quite diverse, there are no generalized models which can apply to all kinds of traffic. Thus we were eager to fill the gap between research and practice. This paper proposed a practical evaluation method for network capacity planning. We applied the proposed method to commercial traffic data which were observed at two different points and on two different dates. Since the proposed method is quite specific and concrete, network operators can easily apply this method to their work. We believe the contribution of this paper helps them to improve quality of their work.
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