There are many factors that affect data transfers.
Data transfers over a network, and thus is susceptible to jitter.
What is Network Jitter?
Jitter, or network jitter, is the variance in time delay in milliseconds (ms) between data packets over a network. It is a disruption in the normal sequence of sending data packets.
The technical term for jitter is “packet delay variance”. Jitter is negative, and in latency sensitive applications, can be detrimental to the user experience.
Network Jitter Example
If you have “computer A” communicating with “computer B”, the two will transfer data packets. Over a healthy network, the packets travel in equal intervals. This will allow the receiving computer to process the data. When there is a situation with jitter, these intervals become disrupted.
If over a normal connection there is a 10 ms latency delay between packets, this could become 50 ms with jitter. This makes it difficult for the receiving computer to process the data.
How You Transfer Data
To understand jitter, we need to discuss how to transfer data. When visiting a website, the website is a collection of data packets. The packets get sent from a server, over a network to your computer, and loaded by your web browser.
The data travels in manageable size packets. The packets travel with as many that can fit within the available bandwidth of the network, and that a web browser can simultaneously process. Latency is the measurement for the speed of the packets.
The packets travel individually based upon these metrics. In a perfect world, all data packets will travel at even distributions of time. In our example above, a 10 ms delay between each packet.
With jitter this becomes varied, and the results are terrible.
With high jitter you could have 3 packets not sent when requested. Then when the time lapse completes, all 3 can arrive at once. This will cause an overload for the requesting computer. This situation leads to congestion and packet loss.
The Effects of Jitter
Congestion is like a traffic jam on the highway. In a traffic jam, cars cannot move forward at a reasonable speed. Like the traffic jam, in congestion all the packets come to a junction at the same time. Nothing can get loaded.
The second negative effect is packet loss. If packets arrive at unexpected intervals, the receiving computer cannot process the information. The result is missing information, or better called packet loss.
This has negative effects for video viewing. If a video becomes pixelated and is skipping, the network is experiencing jitter. The result of the jitter is packet loss.
If you are playing an online game, the effect of packet loss can be a player begins skipping around on the screen. Even worse, the game goes from one scene to the next, skipping over part of the game play.
In AdTech, there can be problems with the submission of advertising bids. This means companies will not get a good bid, or miss the opportunity to bid all together.
In voice over IP (VoIP), the conversation will be difficult to hear. The reason is not all the voice data arrives.
How Systems Compensate
Knowing jitter is an inherent flaw in networks, there are systems in place to compensate for this. The main system is buffering. This provides a literal “buffer” time for covering jitter. This will ensure there is no noticeable difference in the quality of streaming, loading, or downloading.
Network jitter is difficult to solve due to unpredictability. This is what makes its effects so visible. Ensuring a quality network connection, enough bandwidth, and predictable latency can help reduce network jitter.
To see how you can minimize the effects of jitter, download our AWS Network Optimization Whitepaper.