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How to Monitor Gaming at Work
by Alec Pinkham Alec Pinkham on

Every IT person has seen it happen...and some have done it themselves. Gaming at work is more prevalent than ever. Game clients like Steam and the rise in mobile gaming can cause significant congestion on enterprise networks. While many companies have segmented traffic from mobile devices onto a separate network, the amount of game-related traffic can still be astounding. For example, the high for a single day for our sample analysis reached 28TB of game-related traffic.

Know What’s Happening on Your Network

Tree chart of AppNeta monitoring gaming at work Post-filtering, this single-day view shows the impact of various game traffic sources across the AppNeta customer base.

Understanding what traffic is on the network, and monitoring that traffic, is crucial to identifying whether your networks are congested with non-critical traffic. Gaming traffic falls into a few different sub-categories that include video traffic for game trailers, download traffic for game resources, voice traffic for in-game chat and various streams of data for web-connected games. Clients like Steam and Xbox Live make it easier to identify traffic that is likely game-related because they are primarily used for gaming (even after we filtered out obvious sources like game development companies, colleges and local ISP networks), but keeping up with all of the new games, particularly mobile ones, that fall outside of these clients is difficult.

AppNeta uses a Deep Packet Inspection engine to identify and classify all sorts of game-related traffic as it traverses your network. While traditional solutions like NBAR2 can pick up the biggest publishers’ traffic, they fail to differentiate game traffic with something like video traffic from a client like Steam. Plus, updates released are too infrequent to capture the dynamic mobile game market. AppNeta allows users to create custom classifications without having to use the command line, and we update our growing list of apps every month. (We’ve currently got more than 2,000 apps.)

Take a Real-Time Look at Top Games and Traffic

So what traffic should you look out for? We opened up our databases to see the total traffic volume of gaming applications on networks across a segment of our customer base. We omitted some  customers (e.g., hotel guest networks, colleges or municipal ISPs) to keep the results primarily focused on office or enterprise traffic. If AppNeta is not deployed on your network today, you can do some quick searches based on the table below. Game clients and online games will use consistent high-order ports across their player bases and there are some specific port and protocol pairs you can look for outside of HTTP:80 and HTTPS:443 traffic.

Monitoring gaming at work with AppNeta--weekly traffic This is traffic over the course of a sample week across much of our customer base, filtered to show enterprise network traffic only.

For simplicity, we aggregated the chart data above to include all traffic types in and out of clients like Steam and Xbox in one category over a weeklong period. In a single enterprise, you’d be hard-pressed to find all of these in such magnitudes, but the amount of traffic is surprising. Steam was a clear “winner” for game clients, with 71.3TB of traffic, 60% of which happened on Wednesday and Thursday of the sample week. Even more interesting is that the top two contributors to this gaming traffic were insurance agencies and healthcare organizations. (As mentioned above, many of the highest traffic contributors are filtered out to avoid environments that don’t match enterprise offices). Steam’s closest competitors of Xbox and Playstation—console networks that are a bit more conspicuous in the office environment—combined for only 32.5TB during the week. The top contributors for the consoles included a job search provider and manufacturing companies.

Top 3 games impact with AppNeta monitoring Behold the podium of gaming impact on enterprise networks.

Traffic Volume Default Port Definitions
1

Steam

Domain: *.steam.com

Steam client, DLC and game traffic

TCP/UDP: 80, 443, 27000 to 27050

Valve Network AS 32590

Full list

2

PlayStation Network

Domain: *.playstation.com

Main website and network site

TCP/UDP: 3478, 3479

TCP: 3480, 5223, 8080

Dated list

3

Xbox Live (Microsoft)

Domain: *.live.com; *.xbox.com; *.xboxlive.com

TCP/UDP: 53, 80, 3074

UDP: 88

Full list

4

Blizzard.com (Activision)

Domain: *.blizzard.com; *battle.net

Main sites and battle.net client

Activision NAT & Port Forwarding

Battle.net Desktop App -  TCP/UDP: 80, 442, 1119

5

Minecraft (Microsoft, formerly Mojang)

Server hosting

TCP: 25565

Each client, publisher or game has a list of ports and protocols that are used to transfer data (all that content used to be on discs that were shipped with your games). Our top five clients are listed above, but other ways of acquiring this information include checking out specific publishers. For example, if you can identify that traffic is coming from an Electronic Arts domain or IP address,  then you can search their help site for posts like this one that details the required ports.

Another dimension that would be interesting to see across a single enterprise network is the number of unique hosts that are running a specific game or client. With our larger dataset, unique hosts can be harder to decipher because of repeated internal address spaces.

What’s in this post is just a small sample of the data that you get when you’re running AppNeta for your enterprise networks. This gaming data, though, is indicative of a larger problem—lack of visibility into network traffic.

This is just one part of the series on the top traffic across enterprise networks. Stay tuned for the next installment.

Filed Under: performance monitoring, product news

Tags: AppNeta Performance Manager, deep packet inspection, gaming traffic, network traffic

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