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14. Lines and Terminators > Forwarding and Latency

Forwarding and Latency

Every physical line has at least the latency imposed by the speed of light, but most latency on the Internet is caused by the number of terminators and connection points, such as routers, that the bits must pass through. The fewer the termination and decision points, the lower the latency. In particular, you want few connection points where the medium or speed is different between the two sides of the connection.

The interface between lines of two different speeds or protocol types is a choke point. A packet on a slow line cannot instantly be forwarded bit by bit onto a faster line, because the data is always kept in packets in which all bits are adjacent to one another in time. A packet must be received in its entirety before it can be forwarded onto the higher-speed interface. This adds latency. The same story is true for converting protocol types, such as Ethernet to token ring. The moral is to have as few connection points as possible, and to use as few protocols and as few different speeds as possible. The lowest latency comes from a direct connection between the browser and the server, but this is rarely possible.


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