Link aggregation seems to be a simple solution to quadruple your NAS speeds, but it’s not as straightforward as it seems.
A wired connection is usually the best when it comes to networking. When a single connection isn’t adequate, link aggregation between switches, or connecting two network connections together, may help. A single gigabit connection is sufficient for games, however link aggregation may aid with file transfers.
A direct Ethernet connection has many benefits, including being always secure and resistant to radio wave interference (simply don’t run your CAT 5e parallel to an electrical line otherwise everything goes wrong). While newer Ethernet protocols such as 10 Gbps are available, consumer-level equipment remains limited.
Link Aggregation, also known as link bundling or port aggregation, is a more accessible and cheap method to explore throughout the transition from 1 Gbps to 10 Gbps wired Ethernet. This is a technique for combining numerous Ethernet connections into a single logical link. Before you dismiss this as simply another internet prank, keep in mind that link aggregation is an IEEE standard, first appearing in the year 2000 as IEEE 802.3ad, which set the first standard for this. In 2008, it was renamed 802.1AX, or “Link Aggregation Revision.” The following are some of the benefits of link aggregation:
Additional data transfer capacity between linked devices
In the event that an Ethernet cable breaks, there is redundancy, which boosts resilience.
The connections’ load balancing
Remember that Link Aggregation is a general wired network improvement that is well worth investigating for the reasons listed above. There are obvious advantages, especially in a heavily loaded and congested network. However, if the network is less congested, it is unlikely to directly increase FPS or lower latency, and remember that most online gaming uses a relatively small amount of data ( 1 Mb/s), even though a constant flow of data, both on the upload and download, is more crucial to an excellent gaming experience, and a direct wired connection with leftover bandwidth.
There are two scenarios in which a Link Aggregation plan for your wired network should be considered. The first is for the backbone of the network. Because Ethernet cables are very cheap and labour expenses are significant, it is best practise to run many connections in this circumstance to ensure that there is always some connectivity.
It is straightforward to make these several Ethernet connections serve as one logical connection using Link Aggregation, protecting the network in the event that one of the wires fails and enhancing overall bandwidth while all of the lines are operational. The Trendnet TEG-082WS switch was utilised in our system to aggregate numerous ports into a single logical connection between our wired devices.
It contains eight Gigabit Ethernet connections and two SFP+ connectors, allowing it to connect a large number of devices, and it has a fanless design that is more suitable for a home environment. It’s part of their “Web Smart” series, which makes link aggregation simple by self-configuring each of the ports once joined, as seen in the picture below utilising ports 1,2 and 3.
The key to properly configuring this switch (and others) is to ensure that the switch and router are on the same network. The Trendnet switch’s IP address is 192.168.10.200, and it’s connected to an Asus GT-AC5300 with a default IP address of 192.168.1.1. With the default setup, they couldn’t see each other, so they had to change the router’s IP to 192.168.10.1, and everything worked well once they were on the same network.
The client is another method to utilise Link Aggregation. Because most motherboards only have one Ethernet port and do not enable Link Aggregation, a special NIC that enables multiple Ethernet connections is necessary in this instance. However, a 10 Gbps Ethernet card would set you back $225, while a Gigabit Ethernet card with four ports would set you back around $50, and one with two Ethernet ports would set you back around $40, placing it close to the price of a single port card.
LINK AGGREGATION IN A NUTSHELL
So you’ve unboxed your brand-new NAS drive and seen that it has not one, but two gigabit Ethernet connectors around the back. It’s fantastic news – does that imply you can use two connections at the same time for twice the bandwidth?
In a nutshell, yes and no. Utilizing a technique called 802.3ad Connection Aggregation, you may be able to gain a quicker link between the NAS box and the router by using two connections. However, there are a few possible snags to be aware of.
The first is that 802.3ad is not supported by all routers. It’s a business-grade technology that won’t be found in your average ISP-provided router. It isn’t even included in many high-end domestic models.
Even if you are able to activate 802.3ad, you will not see quicker file transfers. It’s simple to see why if you think about it for a second. Your NAS box may now be capable of transferring data to the router at a 2Gb/sec aggregate rate, but the router still has the same connection to your PC as before. It won’t be much quicker than 1Gb/sec, and if you’re using Wi-Fi, it’ll be much slower.
Review of the Netgear ReadyNAS 526X
Furthermore, we discovered that 802.3ad added extra network overhead, which delayed file transfers in our experiments. The top speeds reduced from roughly 110MB/sec to roughly 80MB/sec on average.
So, what is the goal of 802.3ad? Yes, if you have two clients requesting access to the NAS unit at the same time. In this case, 802.3ad allows the router to automatically divide traffic across the two ports, thus giving each computer its own dedicated gigabit connection rather than fighting for a single link. This may give a significant bandwidth improvement in a corporate setting with dozens of customers, particularly on high-end NAS machines with four or more ports.
However, for a home NAS or a small office, you’re probably better off without the overhead – even if it means putting up with a little squabbling on the rare occasions when two customers make simultaneous significant demands on the NAS.
Failover and load balancing
Load balancing is another conceivable use for the second port. This is similar to link aggregation, except instead of allocating each client their own Ethernet port, it seeks to equally balance the overall load over both ports. Individual file transfers aren’t any quicker since there’s still a bottleneck between the router and the client, but it may help when numerous clients are using the NAS device at the same time, similar to link aggregation.
Load balancing used to need particular router support, however many NAS systems now offer a method known as Adaptive Load Balancing (ALB). This should work with any router and requires no setup, so if your NAS machine has this functionality, you should give it a go.
Another alternative for that second Ethernet port is to link it to a second switch or router, so that if your primary network connection fails for whatever reason, the NAS device will “failover” to the other network and stay accessible.
The concept may seem more appropriate for a large corporate office than a home environment; after all, few of us have a backup network up and running just in case. But let’s imagine you’re going on vacation and want to know that your NAS will be available even if you’re on the other side of the globe.
You could buy an inexpensive 3G router, insert a pay-as-you-go SIM, and use it as your backup connection with a failover setup. If your network or ISP goes down, your NAS device should immediately switch to the backup connection, allowing you to access your data. However, it goes without saying that you should properly test such a setup before heading to the airport…