What is low Latency?

What is low Latency?

Latency in networking is the time it takes for a packet of data to travel from its source to destination.

This time is typically measured in milliseconds as the data travels at the speed of light, but variety of factors influence the time required to travel

These factors include the

The phycical distance between devices

the quality of network connection, this include factors like jitter, the connection is fiber ir over wifi etc. If the quality of the netwok is better then the latency is lower

the number of routers, swithces that are between the devices. If there are more devices then there is greater latency

the traffic congestion is another factor, there is there is a lot of congestion then there is more latency

Latency Vs Bandwidth

Latency is a the time delay in sending a packet of data from one point to another

bandwidth is the maximum rate at which data can be transferred from one point to another in a network over a specific period of time. Bandwidth is measured in bits per seconds

Think of it as a pipe transferring data from one point to another, bigger the bandwidth means bigger the diameter of the pipe, hence more data can travel.

Latency on the other hand is the time delay in a packet of data reaching its destination. think of it like, how long is the pipe and hence how long the data needs to travel, are there any leaks in the pipe, are the valve and regulators in the pipe and how many are there

Even a pipe with a large diameter (high bandwidth) there can be delays in a data reaching its destination because of distance, congestion, leaks, valves and regulators ( High Latency)  and such that.

Why Low Latency is Important for performance

Low latency is important for performance in many applications, this is most important in applications that require real time communications like notifications and real time chat etc

Real Time Applications: Real time apps such as real time chat, online gaming and gaming platforms like strada survive only thorough low latency, ultra low latency live streaming for sports etc require req and response feedback cycle which is only achievable with low latency

Enhanced Responsiveness: Low latency results in highly responsive applications, the apps even through run through the internet but it feels as if they are running natively thanks to low latency networks

Efficiency in Automated Systems: If you have automated systems like for example automatic trading bots that trade based on signals in the market, these systems need ultra low latency because markets are moving and these systems need to make decisions in real time.

Impact of Latency on User Experience and Operational Efficiency

User Experience (UX): High latency can badly impact user experience, expecially in instances where the nature of the app is real time. For example if someone is

Operational efficiency: In business latency can affect the efficiency of the operational processes that depend on timely data

Quality of service: Quality of service degrades due to latency issues, this is important in software business that provide api and sdk services to other business and hence the quality of service of software businesses is dependent of low latency

How can you measure Latency?

Ping

The most common tool for measuring latency is ping command. This command line utility sends a ICMP echo request to the target host and listens for replies

The time taken for these packets to travel to the host and back is called as round-trip time, this helps in assessing network stability and consistency in latency.

Traceroute

The tranceroute is a utility that tracks a path that a packet of data travels through form the source device to the destinations

In the path the packet encounters many devices such as routers and switches, it provides the list of routers and the time to reach that devices when it passes it

This tools can be used to diagnose where latency is occouring in the path of the packet from the device to the destination.

What are the causes of latency?

Here are some of the majot causes of latency:

Propagation Delay:

This is a primary factor and this refers to the time it takes for the packet of data to travel from one place to another through a medium of travel such as fiber or wifi.

The fastest the packet travels is close to the speed to light, but phycical distance and the type of medium such as wifi is slower than fiber are significant factors

Transmission Medium:

The type of medium through which the data is travels also plays a factor in determining the speed of travel and hence the latency

the fastest medium is the fiber optic cable, other mediums are slower and include copper wire, wifi radios etc.

Router and Switch Processing Time

Routers and switches that are in the path of the data also plays a role, any additional router or switch in the path increases latency that is due to additional processing and directing the data to the next hop. The more hops are there between the source device and the destination device the higher the latency

Traffic Load

High traffic load leads to more latency and the medium of travel gets crowded and then packets of data gets queued to be processesed and transmittedf

congestion leads to traffic bottlenecks much like congestion in traffic on highways leads to traffic bottlenecks

Network Protocols

Different Protocols require different amount of processing time. What type of network protocol you are using to transmit the data also affects the latency

Server Processing Time

How fast the server processes the request and responds to the request also affects the latency of the data

Quality of Service (QoS) settings

If there are some quality of service settings done on the router than this could also affect the latency. As some services will have priority in processing and other have a lower priority. the service with a lower priority might experience greater latency as the data packets might have to wait in a queue to be processed and then transmitted

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How can you improve network latency issues?

Upgrade Network Infrastructure:

Always use high quality networking hardware, like optical fiber and good quality routers etc can help reduce latency issues

Minimize physical distance

Always try to minimize the physical distance between devices, you can connect to devices that are closer to each other without much latency

Optimize network design and configuration

Network design also plays an important role in latency. Designing a good network where data does not have to travel between hops to reach other devices helps in reducing latency

Utilize modern Network Protocols

Use modern networking protocols like UDP and accelerated TCP protocols for faster transmission of data.

Reduce Network load

Reduce unnecessary data transfer so as to reduce the load on the network. having a lot of traffic in the network creates network congestion which in turn increases latency

Regularly Monitor and optimize Network

Always keep a check and regularly monitor network activity to see if there are any problems with the network which can be improved and the speed restored

Improve software efficiency

Write better software on the server and also on the client that sends data as needed which imporves latency and reduces load times

Thus we have learned in this article what is low latency, and how we can improve latency for better response time and better experience in content consumtion as well as in business.