There’s a new challenge about to hit your network: it's called esports

Neil Shewry headshot
Neil Shewry

Whether it’s on the curriculum or not, any college or university can find themselves experiencing the impact of students playing and watching esports.

Esports gamers play on computers.

With unpredictable numbers of users participating simultaneously, esports events can cause massive surges in demand on an institution’s network, potentially disrupting other essential IT services.   

Handling this challenge requires a fast, secure network capable of allocating bandwidth where it is most needed.  Secure, agile connectivity on and off-campus makes Janet the ideal network infrastructure for meeting the demands of esports. Janet is specifically engineered so that it has enough bandwidth to cope with peak demand from all users concurrently. 

If your university or college is even considering adding esports to the curriculum – or if you’re just concerned about the effects it might have on your IT services in general – Jisc can help.   

Preparation: future-proofing the network 

Where esports is built into the curriculum, facilities generally need to host high-performance gaming workstations and high-definition graphics production studios, as well as spectator seating. The network must support real-time graphics, audio communication among team-mates, video capture and connection to broadcast sites like Twitch or YouTube, and Wi-Fi connections for coaches and spectators. Even students participating in esports off-campus will affect the network, which means that agility, scalability and manageability are key. 

Whatever level of esports you’re anticipating, the IT team needs to be involved in the planning as early as possible. 

Jisc can provide advice and support at every stage of the process, helping institutions of all sizes and levels of IT maturity to future-proof their e-infrastructure. 

Good ping requires low latency 

In esports, good ping matters.  

Ping is the speed at which a player’s reactions are translated into advantage by the speed of the network connection – and milliseconds matter.  However fast a player’s reactions, it’s irrelevant if the results are delayed by network transmission.  In fact, games like Overwatch and Valorant require good ping to be playable.  

The main concern here is latency – sometimes called lag – the delay in communication over a network.  Whereas 100 milliseconds latency is acceptable for normal gaming, with the 20ms to 40ms range considered optimal, esports requires the minimum possible delay.  Janet delivers latency of approximately 1ms between nearby sites, from 6ms to 8ms between distant UK sites and, if we look further afield, around 35ms between here and the US East Coast.

This makes Janet the ideal network for running esports. 

High bandwidth delivers high-quality streaming  

Whether they are watching Netflix or playing esports, students require huge amounts of bandwidth in order to enjoy a seamless online experience.  Janet’s backbone links deliver up to 800Gbits per second capacity, and most of Jisc’s member connections are above 1Gbits/s, with 10Gbits/s connections commonplace and resilient connections becoming ubiquitous.  

In addition, Jisc peers directly with every content provider, cloud service provider and internet service provider you can think of, and hosts Netflix servers directly on the Janet network to further improve the viewing experience.    

Manageability: spreading the load  

Anything that takes away network bandwidth can be detrimental to esports performance.  Conversely, esports can disrupt the network by hogging bandwidth and potentially delaying other business-critical services.  

High-definition real-time graphics and many players making moves simultaneously – not to mention the camera sources and surges of live-streaming traffic from the audience – all compete for a piece of the network.  So it’s crucial for IT managers to be able to see what’s happening and take appropriate action to ensure balanced performance and continuous connectivity for everyone.  

Janet delivers the means to monitor potential bottlenecks, and the scalability to manage them. 

Jisc monitors the traffic on the network and can provide alerts when, for example, an external esports event is taking place that might affect the network performance of nearby institutions. 

Network analytics ensure that only the appropriate traffic is running on the network, track heavy loading and identify delays in responsiveness. The network manager can thus rapidly assess whether network traffic is well-balanced and computing resources are responding with minimal delays.     

Protection: keeping the network available 

Esports can represent a serious security risk, whether it’s taking place on an official course or not.  Jisc provides universities and colleges with the advanced security needed to keep their network and systems available.  

To prevent hacking and other threats to network integrity caused by external esports participants, it is essential to keep unauthorized devices and users from gaining access to the network.  Distributed denials of service (DDoS) attacks can cause outages, loss of important data and worse, so Jisc’s experience in mitigating more than 800 DDoS attacks on members is invaluable in tackling the problem. 

Jisc can advise on all aspects of network security – for example, whether to run an esports course off the main network or a segregated VPN, where a second connection to Janet could boost resilience, or if a managed firewall service is the answer.

About the author

Neil Shewry headshot
Neil Shewry
Director of networks

I am responsible for Janet Network strategy, architecture, design, build, in-life management and product portfolio.