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The Internet Hardware

Home Routers w/ Decent QoS Performance? 52

Posted by Cliff
from the from-the-office-to-the-mainstream dept.
danwarne asks: "With VoIP becoming rapidly more popular, quality of service (QoS) settings in home routers are also emerging as a key piece of functionality for the average user. QoS settings, which allows important or time-sensitive network traffic to be prioritized over less important packets, used to only be offered for corporate-level routers. Now, many hardware manufacturers have started including such capabilities in their mainstream routers, some doing it simply by a firmware upgrade without any change to the power of the underlying hardware. The emerging problem is that most home routers don't do a very good job at all with QoS, especially under heavy load (from P2P apps, for example), and home routers don't seem to have what it takes to prioritize sending Voice over IP packets first, leading to glitchy VoIP calls. VoIP operators around the world are facing this problem as they try to turn VoIP into a 'consumer-friendly' plug-and-play service. Does anyone know if someone has done extensive testing on home routers and modem/routers that investigates their ability to deliver QoS? Also, what hardware elements would be required in a router to do QoS reliably?"
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Home Routers w/ Decent QoS Performance?

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  • Easiest answer: (Score:5, Informative)

    by mikeage (119105) <<ten.egaekim> <ta> <todhsals>> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @10:07AM (#11793659) Homepage
    WRT-54G(S) running sveasoft's firmware. Yes, some people question the legality of the distribution method, but at $60 for the router + $20 for the firmware subscription, it's an instant solution. I'm running it on a 1.5Mbps/96Kbps to manage bittorrent, emule, packet8, counter-strike, and websurfing, and it runs great. More important -- it passes the wife test (aka, she doesn't notice that I'm downloading while she's talking).
  • Re:Easiest answer: (Score:5, Informative)

    by aderusha (32235) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @10:47AM (#11793790) Homepage
    to save yourself the $20 (and the general assholery that sveasoft is prone to), download the GPL'd firmware here: http://www.gonzo-wireless.co.uk/torrents/

    if you're wondering what all the stink is about, read here: http://wrt54g.serwer.net/
  • by maggard (5579) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @10:53AM (#11793811) Homepage Journal
    I reccomend the Linksys WRT54GS. It's about US$10 more then the G model but includes more memory you'll be able to take advantage of in the future. The router can be found online for around US$60 online or US$90 retail.

    Then install the Sveasoft firmware. The shipping version is free, access to the beta version & support for it is US$20. Some folks dissaprove of this strategy but the FSF has green-lighted it and it does pay for the project.

    QoS, VPN (endpoints), SSH, filtering, upped antennae power, it's all there. They've extended the Linksys web interface to handle most of the expanded functioniality and below that there's a real working Open Source Linux with a happy command line.

    Sure it's not an old clunker running something else. It's also small, quiet, stable, wireless if you want to take advantage of that. I dunno about you but being able to replace a 24/7 big noisy hot box in my living space with a smaller quieter cooler one is worth the small premium.

  • QoS to where? (Score:4, Informative)

    by iksowrak (208577) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @11:00AM (#11793849)
    Are you trying to control QoS between two endpoints over the public Internet? If so, tagging the voice traffic leaving your router isn't going to do much good since once you hit the rest of the Internet the other routers on the trip to your destination will immediately disregard any QoS settings that your router has set. Otherwise we'd have boneheads sitting at home configuring their routers to send all their gaming or P2P download traffic with voice level priority. You currently can't control QoS over the public Internet.
  • Re:Easiest answer: (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:00PM (#11794070)
    For a more hassle-proof source of information, go to http://slashdot.org/~TheIndividual/journal [slashdot.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:04PM (#11794091)
    Actually the development version is free as well, because it's licensed under the GPL. You can pay $20 for support, if you want, but if you don't need support you can also get the firmware here [slashdot.org].
  • Re:QoS to where? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:27PM (#11794264)
    The issue is more with the last mile than with the public internet. The backbones are usually not under high stress, but it's easy to saturate a DSL connection. QoS in that context means you try to minimize latency and reserve bandwidth for certain protocols by throttling protocols without realtime requirements. That is possible to a certain extent, but upstream bandwidth usually puts a severe limit on latency: Let's say you can send at 128kbit/s. That's 60ms per KByte, or about 100ms per max-size packet.

    Now suppose you prioritize VoIP traffic (small packets, low bandwidth usage but low latency is important) over file transfers (large packets, high bandwidth usage but no latency requirements) and an upload packet arrives at your router. The bandwidth quota for file transfers is not used up right now and there's no VoIP packet waiting, so the router starts sending the 1500 byte TCP packet. In the meantime a VoIP packet arrives at the router, but even though it has priority over file transfers, it has to wait until the packet which is currently being sent is finished. That adds on average 50ms to your VoIP latency (100ms max). The only difference QoS makes here is that VoIP packets can cut into line when other file transfer packets are waiting to be sent.
  • Re:Easiest answer: (Score:5, Informative)

    by alatesystems (51331) <chris&talkingtoad,com> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @12:54PM (#11794453) Homepage Journal
    Just get it from TheIndividual [slashdot.org] here on his slashdot journal. An AC posted this below, but he's at 0 and I don't have mod points, so I'm reposting it.

    I've used the Sveasoft firmware in the past, but I immediately returned the router. That WRT54g is just not fast enough to deal with my 8mbps internet and do QoS on it at the same time. I went back to using my custom iptables and QoS scripts on my linux box which is an athlon xp 2000+.

    That Sveasoft dude is an evil idiot, and needs to be hit on the head with a GPL stick. I wouldn't pay him for it, even if he included the antidote.
  • by tyler_larson (558763) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:21PM (#11794694) Homepage
    QoS is simply the prioritization of packets in a particular box's send queue. Either a box can do it or it can't. If your router implements QoS, your router isn't the problem.

    Look at your other hardware. If your router can put packets out at 100Mbps, and your cable modem can put out packets at 1.5Mbps, implementing QoS on your router won't get you anywhere--you're router's packet queues are empty. Your cable modem needs to implement QoS too. Cable modems have huge packet queues and can introduce whole seconds of latency--they're usually optimized for throughput only.

    You've got, as I see it, three potential solutions:

    • Get a cable modem/DSL modem, etc. that implements QoS queuing.
    • Get a connection that's faster than your router (not the cheapest option)
    • Throttle the traffic on your router so that it only puts out data at such a rate that the cable modem's queues are always empty.

    There's more to designing a network archetecture than just buying the hardware. You have to really understand what each element of your network is actually doing.

  • Re:Easiest answer: (Score:4, Informative)

    by adolf (21054) * <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @04:57PM (#11796156) Journal
    For anyone looking to buy a WRT54G:

    Try to avoid version 2.2 of this router if you're at all interested in more advanced networking stuff (VLAN, per-port QoS, etc).

    Versions 2.2 use an Atmel ethernet bridge chip which supports all sorts of management tricks, many of which are supported in the Sveasoft firmware. This makes some things very easy - you can run an ethernet drop your neighbor's house and give them their own VLAN to keep them out of your network, for example. Or plug your VoIP terminal into its own port, and give that physical port QoS priority over everything else.

    It's almost like having a Linux box with five independant ethernet interfaces, plus 802.11g, for $60 (!).

    Version 2.2, which is the latest at this time, is essentially the same unit except that it contains a cheap unmanaged Broadcom ethernet bridge. Which works fine, except that your potentially lovely 5-port networking monster just turned into a 2-port model with a built-in dumb 10/100 switch. Which means that you'll need at least two of 'em (or a whole different plan) to split the cable bill with your neighbors, no more per-port QoS, and such.

    Otherwise, they'll all run the same firmwares, and are feature- (and cost) identical.

    FYI.

  • Re:QoS to where? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 27, 2005 @06:04PM (#11796791)
    Reducing the MTU helps with the latency but increases overhead (processor load and bandwidth for more headers).
  • by jsailor (255868) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @06:49PM (#11797226)
    Jump on E-Bay and look for an 806, 831, or 1710.

    The 806 is a dual Ethernet router that will do a good job with QoS. It handles Low Latency Queuing for VoIP (essentially priority queuing - whenever it sees a VoIP packet - or any other type you define as high priority - it places it at the head of the output queue. It also supports Committed Access Rate (CAR) for restricting traffic rates for traffic patterns that you define (e.g. by IP address, protocol, mac address, combinations of these). Class-based traffic shaping which smooths the output rate to specified bit rates. CAR polices, shaping controls the actual rate of transmission. It also supports a number of other congestion management features along with a good deal of Cisco's higher end features.

    The 831 is similar to the 806, but includes a built-in hardware accelerator for encryption that enables 3DES at rates of 2 Mbps or more.

    The 1710 includes all of the above, including the encryption module, and many more features for QoS and general router functionality.

    All of the above support a stateful firewall, IDS signature matching, syslog, etc., etc.

    If you like/need a web GUI, then the 831 or 1710 are the way to go. Be sure and download Cisco's SDM for greatly improved web-based configuration and management.

    Data sheets for the above can be found in the following locations:

    806 [cisco.com]

    831 [cisco.com]

    1710 [cisco.com]

    SDM [cisco.com]

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