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Table Of Contents  The TCP/IP Guide
 9  Networking Fundamentals
      9  Network Performance Issues and Concepts

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Putting Network Performance In Perspective
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Performance Measurements: Speed, Bandwidth, Throughput and Latency
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Balancing Network Performance with Key Non-Performance Characteristics

We all know that performance is very important to any network. However, anyone putting together a network must also be concerned with many different non-performance characteristics as well. Depending on the network, these can be just as essential to the users of the network as performance, and possibly even more critical. More than this, non-performance issues often trade off against performance, and in fact, often more than not one has to be reduced to get performance to increase.

So, if you want to create a very-high-performance network, you need to understand the key non-performance network characteristics where you may need to compromise. Here are a few of these issues, and specifically how they relate to performance concerns:

  • Design and Implementation Cost: Unless you have bottomless pockets, you need to be concerned with the network’s costs. As mentioned in the prior topic, cost is the main trade-off with performance. Going faster costs more money—not always, but usually.

  • Quality: The quality of the network is a function of the quality of the components used and how they are installed. Quality is important because of its impact on all of the factors described here, such as reliability and ease of administration, as well as performance. Quality doesn't trade off directly with performance—you can design high-quality, high-performance networks—but it does compete with performance for resources such as budget. All else being equal, it costs a great deal more to implement a high-quality, high-performance network than a high-quality, low-speed one.

  • Standardization: Network protocols and hardware can either be designed to meet universally-accepted standards, or non-standard, proprietary ones. Standard designs are almost always preferable, as they make interoperability, upgrading, support and training easier. Proprietary standards may include enhancements that improve performance, but may increase cost and/or make management more difficult.

  • Reliability: This is related to several other issues, especially quality and performance. Faster networks aren't necessarily less reliable, but it's more difficult and expensive to run them as reliably as slower ones.

  • Expandability and Upgradability: It's very important to always plan for the future when creating a network. Higher-performance networks can be more difficult to expand; they are certainly more expensive to expand. Once again, the matter of implementing a network with capacity for future needs now, as opposed to upgrading later if it becomes necessary, is an important network design decision.

  • Ease of Administration and Maintenance: Higher-performance networks require more work and resources to administer and maintain, and are more likely to require troubleshooting, than slower ones.

  • Premises and Utility Issues: Implementation of high-speed networks may be limited by the physical premises, or may have an impact on how they are laid out. Choosing a higher-speed option may require more infrastructure to be put in place, increasing cost. The classic example of this is seen in choosing between wired and wireless options for a home or small office network: with wires you can go much faster, but do you really want to run the wires?

Anyway, now you have a flavor of how performance balances against some of the other key issues in networking. The idea of this topic wasn't to convince you not to build a high-performance network, just to let you know part of the price you will pay.

Key Concept: While performance is one of the most important characteristics of any network, there are others that are equally important. In many cases, the cost, quality, reliability, expandability, maintainability and other attributes of a network may in fact trade off against overall performance. The faster you want your network to go, the more difficult it is to ensure these other attributes are kept at sufficiently high levels.

Previous Topic/Section
Putting Network Performance In Perspective
Previous Page
Pages in Current Topic/Section
Next Page
Performance Measurements: Speed, Bandwidth, Throughput and Latency
Next Topic/Section

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