Characterizing and improving last mile performance using home networking infrastructure
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More than a billion people access the Internet through residential broadband connections worldwide, and this number is projected to grow further. Surprisingly, little is known about some important properties of these networks: What performance do users obtain from their ISP? What factors affect performance of broadband networks? Are users bottlenecked by their ISP or by their home network? How are applications such as the Web affected by these factors? Answering these questions is difficult; there is tremendous diversity of technologies and applications in home and broadband networks. While a lot of research has tackled these questions piecemeal, the lack of a good vantage point to obtain good measurements from these networks makes it notably difficult to do a holistic characterization of the ﾓlast mileﾔ. In this dissertation we use the home gateway to characterize home and access networks and mitigate performance bottlenecks that are specific to such networks. The home gateway is uniquely situated; it is always on and, as the hub of the network, it can directly observe the home network, the access network, and user traffic. We present one such gateway- based platform, BISmark, that currently has nearly 200 active access points in over 20 countries. We do a holistic characterization of three important components of the last mile using the gateway as the vantage point: the access link that connects the user to the wider Internet, the home network to which devices connect, and Web performance, one of the most commonly used applications in today's Internet. We first describe the design, development, and deployment of the BISmark platform. BISmark uses custom gateways to enable measurements and evaluate performance opti- mizations directly from home networks. We characterize access link performance in the US using measurements from the gateway; we evaluate existing techniques and propose new techniques that help us understand these networks better. We show how access link technology and home networking hardware can affect performance. We then develop a new system that uses passive measurements at the gateway to localize bottlenecks to either the wireless network or the access link. We deploy this system in 64 homes worldwide and characterize the nature of bottlenecks, and the state of the wireless network in these homes - specifically we show how the wireless network is rarely the bottleneck as throughput exceeds 35 Mbits/s. Finally, we characterize bottlenecks that affect Web performance that are specific to the last mile. We show how latency in the last mile results in page load times stagnating at throughput exceeding 16 Mbits/s, and how simple techniques deployed at the gateway can mitigate these bottlenecks.
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