QoS put to the test

By Jeff Caruso, Network World |  Networking

A dozen vendors will test their quality-of-service implementations against each other this week, covering QoS for LANs, WANs and policy-based networking.

Sponsored by the QoS Forum, the interoperability tests represent the first time such a range of QoS standards has been tested at one time. The vendors will test the IEEE's 802.1p standard with the Internet Engineering Task Force's Resource Reservation Protocol (RSVP), Differentiated Services (Diff-Serv) and Common Open Policy Service (COPS).

The participating vendors include router and switch makers Cisco and Nortel Networks, server operating system vendors Microsoft and Novell, test equipment makers Ixia and Netcom, and policy server vendors Intel and Orchestream.

The tests, which will be conducted in Campbell, Calif., are closed to the public and are only for equipment engineers who want to work out the technical details of making their equipment interoperate.

"It's a good thing these guys are getting together because if QoS doesn't run
end-to-end, there's really no point in using it over the Internet," says Scott Baker, manager of network services at Playboy Enterprises.

Playboy has a lot of Extreme Networks switches in its LAN and in November plans to turn on the built-in QoS capabilities to run video over its internal network. Baker says Playboy can do this easily because it uses a single vendor's equipment throughout. If other vendors' equipment or the Internet come into play, it's much more difficult to ensure network traffic gets the QoS it needs.

QoS standards attempt to establish priorities for certain types of traffic. In an IP world, network traffic all has the same priority and gets through the network in a
best-effort manner. Vendors are trying to add levels of QoS to make sure that

time-sensitive traffic -- such as voice, video or critical applications -- gets through the network faster.

Unfortunately, QoS efforts have been disjointed. IEEE 802.1p represents a way of tagging Ethernet frames with a certain priority level. RSVP is a protocol that applications can use to request a level of QoS from network devices. Diff-Serv is a QoS standard aimed at the WAN, and COPS helps management tools set QoS policies at a central location and implement the policies in network hardware.

"I think there's still some confusion about how to implement QoS in the network," says Dan Dahle, an Intel marketing director. But he adds that some consensus is forming around the above technologies. Now it's a matter of getting everything to work together.

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