Delay Classes

Delay Classes are generally used in places where bandwidth is expensive. They let you slow down access to specific sites (so that other downloads can happen at a reasonable rate), and they allow you to stop a small number of users from using all your bandwidth (at the expense of those just trying to use the Internet for work).

Many non-US Universities have very small pipes to the Internet. Unfortunately these Universities often end up with huge amounts of their bandwidth being used for surfing that is not study-related. In the US this is fine, since the cost is negligible, but in other countries the cost of this casual surfing is astronomical.

To ensure that some bandwidth is available for work-related downloads, you can use delay-pools. By classifying downloads into segments, and then allocating these segments a certain amount of bandwidth (in kilobytes per second), your link can remain uncongested for useful traffic.

To use delay-pools you need to have compiled Squid with the appropriate source code: you will have to have used the --enable-delay-pools option when running the configure program back in Chapter 2.

Slowing down access to specific URLs

An acl-operator (delay_access) is used to split requests into pools. Since we are using acls, you can split up requests by source address, destination url or more. There is more than one type (or class) of pool. Each type of pool allows you to limit bandwidth in different ways.

The Second Pool Class

Rather than cover all of the available classes immediately, let's deal with a basic example first. In this example we have only one pool, and the pool catches all URLs containing the word abracadabra.

Example 7-26. Limiting download speed by a word in the URL

acl magic_words url_regex -i abracadabra
delay_pool_count 1
delay_class 1 1
delay_parameters 1 16000/16000
delay_access 1 allow magic_words

The first line is a standard ACL: it returns true if the requested URL has the word abracadabra in it. The -i flag is used to make the search case-insensitive.

The delay_pool_count variable tells Squid how many delay pools there will be. Here we have only one pool, so this option is set to 1.

The third line creates a delay pool (delay pool number 1, the first option) of class 1 (the second option to delay_class).

The first delay class is the simplest: the download rate of all connections in the class are added together, and Squid keeps this aggregate value below a given maximum value.

The fourth line is the most complex, as if you can see. The delay_parameters option allows you to set speed limits on each pool. The first option is the pool to be manipulated: since we have only one pool in this example, this is set to 1. The second option consists of two values: the restore and max values, seperated by a forward-slash (/).

If you download a short file at high speed, you create a so-called burst of traffic. Generally these short bursts of traffic are not a problem: these are normally html or text files, which are not the real bandwidth consumers. Since we don't want to slow everyone's access down (just the people downloading comparitively large files), Squid allows you to configure a size that the download is to start slowing down at. If you download a short file, it arrives at full speed, but when you hit a certain threshold the file arrives more slowly.

The restore value is used to set the download speed, and the max value lets you set the size at which the files are to be slowed down from. Restore is in kilobytes per second, max is in kilobytes.

In the above example, downloads proceed at full speed until they have downloaded 16000 bytes. This limit ensures that small file arrive reasonably fast. Once this much data has been transferred, however, the transfer rate is slowed to 16000 bytes per second. At 8 bits per byte this means that connections are limited to 128kilobits per second (16000 * 8).

The Second Pool Class

As I discussed in this section's introduction, delay pools can help you stop one user from flooding your links with downloads. You could place each user in their own pool, and then set limits on a per-user basis, but administrating these lists would become painful almost immediately. By using a different pool type, you can set rate limits by IP address easily.

Let's consider another example: you have a 128kbit per second line. Since you want some bandwidth available for things like SMTP, you want to limit web access to 100kbit per second. At the same time, you don't want a single user to use more than their fair share of sustained bandwidth. Given that you have 20 staff members, and 100kbit per second remaining bandwidth, each person should not use more than 5kbit per second of bandwidth. Since it's unlikely that every user will be surfing at once, we can probably limit people to about four times their limit (that's 20kbit per second, or 2.5kbytes per second).

In the following example, we change the delay class for pool 1 to 2. Delay class 2 allows us to specify both an aggregate (overall) bandwidth usage and a per-user usage. In the previous example the delay_paramaters tag only took one set of options, the aggregate peak and burst rates. Given that we are now using a class-two pool, we have to supply two sets of options to delay_parameters: the overall speed and the per-IP speed. The 100kbits per second value is converted to bytes per second by dividing by 8 (giving us the 12500 values), and the per-IP value of 2.5kbits per second we discovered is converted to bytes per second (giving us the 2500 values.)

Example 7-27. Limiting both overall and per-user bandwidth usage

acl all src
delay_pool_count 1
delay_class 1 2
delay_parameters 1 12500/12500 2500/2500
delay_access 1 allow all

The Third Pool Class

This class is useful to very organizations like Universities. The second pool class lets you stop individual users from flooding your links. A lab full of students all operating at their maximum download rate can, however, still flood the link. Since such a lab (or department, if you are not at a University) will all have IP addresses in the same range, it is useful to be able to put a cap on the download rate of an entire network range. The third pool class lets you do this. Currently this option only works on class-C network ranges, so if you are using variable length subnet masks then this will not help.

In the next example we assume that you have three IP ranges. Each range must not use more than 1/3 of your available bandwidth. For this example I am assuming that you have a 512kbit/s line, and you want 64kbit/s available for SMTP and other protocols. This will leave you with an overall download rate cap of 448kbit/s.) Each Class-C IP range will have about 150kbit/s available. With 3 ranges of 256 IP addresses each, you should have in the region of 500 pc's, which (if calculated exactly) gives you .669kbit per second per machine. Since it is unlikely that all machines will be using the net at the same time, you can probably allocate each machine (say) 4kbit per second (a mere 500 bytes per second).

Example 7-28. Using Class 3 Delay Pools

acl all src
delay_pool_count 1
delay_class 1 3
# 56000*8 sets your overall limit at 448kbit/s
# 18750*8 sets your per-network limit at 150kbit/s
# 500*8 sets your per-user limit at 4kbit/s
delay_parameters 1 56000/56000 18750/18750 500/500
delay_access 1 allow all

In this example, we changed the delay class of the pool to 3. The delay_parameters option now takes four arguments: the pool number; the overall bandwidth rate; the per-network bandwidth rate and the per-user bandwidth rate.

The 4kbit per second limit for users seems a little low. You can increase the per-user limit, but you may find that it's a better idea to change the max value instead, so that the limit sets in after only (say) 16kilobytes or so. This will allow small pages to be downloaded as fast as possible, but large pages will be brought down without influencing other users.

If you want, you can set the per-user limit to something quite high, or even set them to -1, which effectively means that there is no limit. Limits work from right to left, so if I user is sitting alone in a lab they will be limited by their per-user speed. If this value is undefined, they are limited by their per-network speed, and if that is undefined then they are limited by their overall speed. This means that you can set the per-user limit higher than you would expect: if the lab is not busy then they will get good download rates (since they are only limited by the per-network limit).

Using Delay Pools in Real Life

By combining multiple ACLs, you can do interesting things with delay pools. Here are some examples: