Microsoft SMB Over QUIC

A Game Changer

Ned Pyle, Principal Program Manager in the Microsoft Windows Server engineering group announced in March 2020, a “game changer” coming to SMB. SMB over QUIC.

QUIC Introduction

QUIC is an internet protocol that has been quietly working under the hood of Chrome (it is also supported by Microsoft Edge, Firefox and Safari). The protocol has considerable less latency as QUIC utilizes UDP, and cuts short the delays in fetching of data associated with TCP. In early experiments on YouTube, users reported 30% less rebuffers under identical conditions.1

With QUIC, the SMB protocol can act like a virtual private network option for mobile phones, replacing TCP/IP or RDMA.2 For mobile phones, QUIC has an in-built connection migration feature. As the user moves from one network area to another, for instance while leaving work and entering a parking lot located on the periphery of the workplace Wi-Fi, the user can continue to browse the current page or website as usual without any disruptions. This ‘parking lot’ problem is thus resolved by QUIC.3

QUIC will make web applications faster, especially video and searches. The protocol works by reducing the round trips required to connect to servers, reducing handshakes and packet losses, and through encryption and UDP transport. Reports claim QUIC can speed up content downloads by 100-200%.4

Ned Pyle writes, “SMB over QUIC, a game-changer coming to Windows, Windows Server, and Azure Files. In today’s world, SMB file share access for mobile users requires expensive & complex VPNs. Departments trying to use Azure Files often find their ISP has blocked port 445. Even though users are just as likely to be deskless and organizations are doing more hybrid computing than ever, SMB hasn’t kept up. “

QUIC is currently deployed in Windows 10 in the Edge browser and other apps. According to Ned’s post, QUIC will be the transport protocol option that can make a tunnel that secures SMB payloads through encryption, even in the absence of SMB enabled encryption. 

There are two main reasons cited by Ned to implement QUIC. Firstly, QUIC offers extra security by preventing ‘man in the middle’ attacks thus all SMB conversations happen inside the QUIC layers, as if it was a VPN tunnel. Secondly, QUIC offers a faster option, though not mandatory, so a machine can try both the TCP/RDMA protocol and QUIC and choose whichever is faster.5

The internet today is expected to run faster and smoother as HTTP/3 running on top of QUIC progresses to be adopt globally. More details about the history and development of QUIC can be obtained from the Wikipedia profile on QUIC.6

More about QUIC

Mozilla Firefox has currently started supporting HTTP/3 in its nightly builds which is Mozilla’s experimental channel for developers to test new features. These builds are aimed towards developers as they pertain stability issues that would otherwise lead to crashes or malfunctioning7.

QUIC’s deployment as the 5G packet core has been made possible due to the close knitted collaboration between IETF and 3GPP8. QUIC fast connection-less attribute along with connection migration, multiplexing, superior congestion control, and secured TLS 1.3 tunneling, makes QUIC the preferred transport over the conventional TCP + TLS protocol9.

The advent of 5G will also propel the cloud gaming industry where QUIC’s low connection latency will prove to be beneficial in improving game reaction time and frame drops, which are major bottlenecks in today’s cloud gaming development. Google’s Stadia, launched in the fourth quarter of 2019 has helped boost the development of similar services such as Shadow, GeForce Now, Microsoft Xcloud and Playstation Now10.

With the conventional distribution system of physical media being unpredictable and volatile, the momentum of the gaming industry only seems plausible to move towards the online cloud subscription service, which from a company’s standpoint provides a constant revenue stream.

5G will also lead to better connected IOT devices where the quick flow of information will result in better AI development and implementation. Devices with such implementation will be better able to connect with each other and sustain the connection which is crucial in high stake conditions such as autonomous driving, telehealth and the aviation industry.

QUIC is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 52.94%, where it would reach around 23 billion by the end of 2027. As peoples demand for faster and consistent internet service increases QUIC at this junction seems as the way forward to attaining the future of a secured, flexible, and snappier network infrastructure. Companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Alibaba, Mozilla, have already adopted QUIC and with all this development, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes the industry standard11.

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