Qualcomm announces "Streamboost" to give your Home Network some Brains

Subject: Networking | January 4, 2013 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: streamboost, qualcomm, qos, D-Link, ces 2013, alienware

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With CES right around the corner, we’re about to be buried in a deluge of announcements from consumer electronics vendors.  Since I was not able to get out to CES in person this year, Qualcomm offered to give me a sneak peek at their new “Streamboost” technology they’ve just announced and will be showing at CES.  I got to spend some time on the phone with Ciera Jammal, their PR rep and Michael Cubbage, Director of Business Development in their networking unit.  For those of you that may not recognize Michael’s name, he was one of the co-founders of Bigfoot Networks that brought us their “Killer Gaming” line of Ethernet and wireless products.  Acquired by Qualcomm in the fall of 2011, the merged Bigfoot and Qualcomm teams have now released “Streamboost”.

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So, what is Streamboost you ask?  Simply put, it’s an innovative Quality of Service engine that’s much, much more than what’s available for consumer QoS today.  QoS on most current consumer products only looks at what ports traffic is flowing across and prioritizes the traffic based on a simple list of what ports should be given priority at the expense of traffic on lower priority ports.  There’s no analysis of what the actual traffic is and in cases where different types of traffic flows over the same port (port 80 for example) it doesn’t offer any benefit at all.  The Streamboost engine on the other hand, will actually inspect the packets in real time, determining not only what port the traffic is using, but what the traffic actually is.  So for example, Streamboost will be able actually be able to tell that one stream is 1080p YouTube video while another is Standard Definition Netflix traffic, even though they are both on port 80, and give both streams the bandwidth they need. 

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Once the engine determines what type of data is moving through the connection, it will give that connection the bandwidth it needs to run optimally, but no more.  The “no more” piece is important because it frees up bandwidth for other applications and connections.  If there is not enough bandwidth available for the “Optimal” setting, it will then drop back and make every effort to give the connection what’s been determined to be the “Minimum acceptable” bandwidth needed for that type of traffic.

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How does Streamboost know what bandwidth is Optimal and what bandwidth is Minimum?  Well, Qualcomm has studied various types of traffic ranging from YouTube to Netflix to Call of Duty to torrents, and they’ve come up with the Optimal and Minimum bandwidth values for all types of traffic.  This data will be included in a “Detection and Policy Table” on the router that the Streamboost engine will reference.  My first thoughts when I heard this was that it sounded great, but what happens when that table gets out of date?  Qualcomm has thought of that as well and Streamboost includes an opt-in, cloud based service that will keep your router’s table up to date.  Not only that, but if the router encounters a new type of traffic not in its table, it will capture a few packets and send them up to the cloud (anonymized of course) to be analyzed and added to future table updates.  Your router should actually perform better as it’s table is updated and will be better after a year than it was on Day 1.  However, if you’re not interested in being part of the “Opt In crowd”, the engine can also be manually updated at any time.

The UI looks great and will let you drill down into your bandwidth use either by application or device.  Speaking of devices, Streamboost can detect the various types of devices on your network and lets you prioritize based on those criteria as well.

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D-Link and Alienware are the first two partners onboard with Streamboost and will be showing routers with the technology at CES as well as releasing them this spring.  All in all, after speaking to Qualcomm, I think I’m going to hold off my planned router upgrade until I can get my hands on a new router with Streamboost built in.

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Source: Qualcomm