Australian invention could solve buffering issues

Vijay Sivaraman, left, and Himal Kumar are improving the way we use the internet.

Researchers at UNSW Sydney could improve how network operators monitor and classify internet traffic, saving them costs and bettering the internet experience for consumers.

The UNSW team have attracted investment from London-listed IP Group to help fund a start-up that will solve internets issues such as buffering.

Professor Vijay Sivaraman from UNSW’s School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications and his research protégé Himal Kumar founded Canopus Networks in 2018, after realising the commercial potential of the research in 2016.

“We know hardware is very good at doing repetitive tasks working at high speeds, whereas software is good at being intelligent and flexible. Our product, Telescope,uses a combination of these and artificial intelligence to optimise the use of bandwidth in a network,” said Sivaraman.

Discussions with Google revealed the need for a more effective solution for internet service providers (ISPs) and network providers to optimise bandwidth use.

Network providers such as Telstra and Optus monitor their internet traffic to optimise how they allocate bandwidth between different activities, such as streaming movies or web browsing, which comes at an enormous cost.

Current solutions to do this include custom hardware – proprietary systems that are hugely expensive – or software that runs on computers that cannot be easily scaled to handle large amounts of data.

This means that networks can only monitor a small portion of their traffic (5-10 per cent) and make assumptions about usage from there.

Telescope examines all traffic passing through a network and in a matter of seconds knows what it is.

“For example, if it’s a Netflix stream, which is large and likely to run for a while, we offload it to hardware,” said Sivaraman,

When providers can separate hardware and software and use each in the most effective way, they can achieve full visibility into network traffic – at very high speeds for very low cost.

“Our clients will instantly see the mix of traffic on their network – how much bandwidth YouTube is using, how much Netflix is being streamed, how much data is being used on downloads and web browsing.

“This visibility is the first key to understanding and managing the network better, to improve user experience without buying more bandwidth, but by allocating it in a different way.”

The technology was seeded through two research collaborations between UNSW and Optus from 2016 to 2017 and then evaluated via a paid trial with a large telecommunications network provider in 2018, which validated the commercial opportunity and led to the creation of Canopus Networks.

The investment from IP Group will be used to hire software engineers, to refine the product and cover general operating expenses.

Managing Director of IP Group Australia Mike Molinari said Canopus Networks is a great example of quality science and technology university research.

“We’re delighted to have made this investment into Canopus Networks and look forward to supporting the team to commercialise this technology and grow the business,” he said.