Selecting Transport Protocols for Real-Time Data

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With mission-critical data, you need a reliable protocol that will deliver data to the right place in the correct order.

The world is moving toward a digital revolution. As more businesses expand these operations, how you manage information becomes a more prevalent concern. Choosing the right transport protocols for your real-time data has never been more critical.

When you’re dealing with mission-critical data, ensuring it gets where it needs to be in time is paramount. In today’s fast-paced world, using whatever transport protocol is easiest is no longer an option. You should be sure your solution fits your needs, but that decision isn’t always straightforward.

Complications can arise because there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to data transport. What makes a protocol more or less sufficient depends on your information and how you use it. 

See also: The Promises of Data Fabric in Digital Transformation

Data Needs to Consider

There are multiple factors to consider when trying to find the best transport protocol for your data. Naturally, when you’re dealing with real-time info, you need a fast solution, but that’s not all. Generally speaking, there are six primary considerations to keep in mind: 

  • Reliability
  • Throughput
  • Flexibility
  • Latency sensitivity
  • Accuracy
  • Visibility

With mission-critical data, you need a reliable protocol that will deliver data to the right place in the correct order. Throughput may be another primary concern, as not all protocols can support high-bandwidth data over long distances. If you work with a lot of varied information, you may also need to look for a flexible solution.

If latency and jitter affect your applications, you’ll want a protocol that can account for that. No matter your specific needs, you’ll want a solution that performs as you’d expect it. Lastly, the more visibility your protocol offers, the easier it will be to adjust to any problems or changes.

With those considerations in mind, here’s a rundown of some of the most prevalent data transport protocols.

1. RTP

RTP, or real-time transport protocol, is one of the oldest and most well-established options. As the name implies, RTP is explicitly designed for real-time data transfer, making it an appealing option. It has become something of a standard for multimedia data, so if you’re working with audio and video, it’s an excellent choice.

RTP enables data delivery monitoring to account for any jittering or packet loss. This visibility is particularly helpful for mission-critical information, as it improves both flexibility and reliability. RTP can also synchronize audio and video streams from separate transmissions.

Compressed RTP, or CRTP, decreases the size of RTP headers, but it’s not as flexible. If your connections aren’t as reliable or fast, then CRTP may not be ideal.

2. TCP and TCP Variants

TCP, transmission control protocol, is foundational to internet communications and is a popular choice for most transfers. When it comes to real-time data transport, though, TCP in and of itself isn’t ideal, as it has limited throughput and is often inflexible. TCP variants, on the other hand, may satisfy mission-critical data needs.

TCP-Cubic and TCP-Illinois, for instance, offer higher throughput and improved error recovery. Still, these may not meet your needs for visibility or flexibility, which are shortcomings of virtually all TCP variants. SCTP and SCPS-TP do better in those regards but may still leave something to be desired.

Of all the TCP variants, SCPS-TP is likely your best choice for transporting real-time, mission-critical data. As a group, though, TCP often struggles to meet modern data needs.

User datagram protocol (UDP) is like TCP in that, by itself, it’s not sufficient for real-time data transport. Its variants, also like TCP, show some marked improvement, though. RTP often runs on UDP, but there are other UDP variants out there as well.

3. UDP and UDP Variants

User datagram protocol (UDP) is like TCP in that, by itself, it’s not sufficient for real-time data transport. Its variants, also like TCP, show some marked improvement, though. RTP often runs on UDP, but there are other UDP variants out there as well.

Unlike TCP, which focuses on packet delivery, UDP seeks to reach your desired transmission rate above all else. As a result, it doesn’t guarantee packet delivery, which makes it ill-suited for mission-critical work. Variants like UDT, SMPTE-2022-1, and NORM offer improved reliability, so they represent better choices.

Of the UDP variants, NORM is the best for mission-critical, real-time transport. It’s substantially more reliable and flexible but may have issues with throughput.

If UDP, RTP, and TCP don’t satisfy your needs, you may consider looking for a commercial solution. All these options come with the caveat of costing money, but they often provide superior performance. Nearly all of them are more reliable than RTP, TCP, and UDP but may fall short in other categories.

4. Commercial Options

Of the various commercial solutions available, DataDefender and FASP are likely your best options. Both enable high throughput, especially compared to traditional protocols, and competitive reliability. They start to differ in terms of the applications they’re most well-suited for.

FASP is ideal for file transfer but may not be flexible enough to serve purposes beyond that. DataDefender is better-suited to more complex tasks but may not be a good choice on less reliable networks.

Other Protocols to Keep in Mind

As your company makes the switch to digital operations, data transport protocols aren’t the only things to consider. Perhaps most importantly, you should think about what security measures you have in place. With more digitization comes more risk of a crippling data breach.

If you want to stay safe, establishing strict network access protocols is a necessity. Ideally, your system should require periodic password changes, so password theft is less of a concern. Similarly, using a system that enables or even requires multifactor authentication will further secure network access.

Find the Best Protocol to Fit Your Needs

Digital transformation is all but inevitable for many businesses in today’s data-driven world. Adopting a digital approach comes with myriad benefits, but you should ensure that this transition is a safe and reliable one. You have a lot of options when it comes to data transport and management, so take the time to find the most relevant solution.

As with many applications, the best data transport protocol for one company may not be the same for another. Take inventory of what kind of information you use and how you do so to find the best protocol for your needs.

Devin Partida

About Devin Partida

Devin Partida is a technology writer who covers topics related to big data, machine learning, and real-time analytics. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com.

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