2008 CABLE SHOW: Sandvine Gets Agnostic About Bandwidth


NEW ORLEANS—Sandvine, the Canadian company whose technology has been at the center of the storm surrounding Comcast’s peer-to-peer bandwidth-throttling practices, has created an extension to its platform that will scale back Internet connections in what it calls an “application-agnostic” fashion.

The FairShare system, which works with Sandvine’s network switches, allows service providers to curtail bandwidth based on subscriber-usage metrics from various sources to balance available bandwidth and resources among all subscribers.

The idea is to improve the overall “quality of experience” for subscribers by smoothing out spikes in bandwidth usage, according to Tom Donnelly, Sandvine’s executive vice president of marketing and sales.

“Ultimately, not all bits are equal,” he said. “A file transfer that takes 1 hour instead of 55 minutes is not really less satisfactory. But a voice call that doesn’t go through is unacceptable.”

And, he said, while the original impetus for Sandvine’s system was to control floods of P2P file-sharing, other applications are now consuming sizable chunks of bandwidth too.

“It’s not just about focusing on one class of traffic anymore,” he said. “There’s a diversity of applications that need to be taken into consideration.”

But FairShare also seems designed as a response to the brouhaha over Comcast’s bandwidth-management techniques, which use Sandvine’s Policy Traffic Switch to slow down P2P traffic. (Comcast has never confirmed that it is using the Sandvine system.)

After advocacy groups complained to the Federal Communications Commission about the practice, the agency launched a probe into whether Comcast violated its Internet management principles. Cox Communications, meanwhile, was fingered last week by German research team as similarly “blocking” peer-to-peer connections.

In March, Comcast said it would work collaboratively with BitTorrent and that it planned to “migrate by year-end 2008 to a capacity management technique that is protocol agnostic”--indicating the cable operator may decide to drop Sandvine.

Donnelly, asked about the possibility Comcast may pick a new bandwidth management platform, responded: “We feel reasonably confident in our relationships with our largest customers. Our products are widely deployed throughout the network. We’re talking about a very large number of devices.”

Sandvine, based in Waterloo, Ontario, claims to have 100 service provider customers worldwide, serving 50 million broadband and 10 million wireless subscribers. Its key competitors are Cisco Systems, Arbor Networks and Allot Communications.

Donnelly said FairShare has already been deployed by a North American service provider, but he declined to identify the customer.

FairShare uses technology from two companies Sandvine acquired last year, CableMatrix Technologies and Simplicita Software.