Traffic shaping, also known as packet shaping, Quality of Service (QoS) or bandwidth management, is the manipulation and prioritization of network traffic to reduce the impact of heavy users or machines from effecting other users. This bandwidth throttling or rate limiting is performed to guarantee QoS and return on investment (ROI) via the efficient use of bandwidth.
Specifically, traffic shaping is achieved by delaying the flow of certain packets and prioritizing the flow of other preferred streams by predetermined sets of constraints. The benefits of traffic shaping includes the prioritization of business-critical over non-critical traffic and the creation of tiered service levels.
Traffic shaping is required both at the network level (for example IP or TCP/UDP port level) and the application level (often referred to as deep packet inspection (DPI) or layer 7 (L7)). Further advances in traffic shaping allow prioritization of traffic by user ID, in addition to IP, host name or application.