Performance Optimization Services from AT&T and Verizon

AT&T and Verizon Business are the only US carriers we know of that offer application performance optimization services built on distributed ADS (application delivery system) technologies from the likes of Packeteer, Riverbed, Cisco and Juniper. More common among US carriers are MPLS services providing less potent "in the cloud" traffic management. We note that distributed ADS services are more widespread outside the US.

Why is this? Our theory is that the application performance problems that domestic US enterprises experience tend not to be as profound as those of their multinational counterparts. Coast-to-coast distances within the US do not cause crippling latency problems, and high quality broadband connectivity is ubiquitous. Latency and connectivity constraints draw multinational companies to distributed ADS services to make application users productive wherever they may be. So for now only carriers with international coverage are compelled to offer distributed ADS services - that of course includes AT&T and Verizon Business. Here's what they offer.

AT&T's Managed Networking Services Group provides a portfolio of distributed ADS service offerings including two application performance monitoring services, two performance control services, and an application acceleration service. One of the two monitoring services gathers highly detailed, real-time, resource usage and performance data using a Fluke Networks probe installed at a customer's premises. The other monitoring service feeds NetFlow data from Cisco routers into an AT&T-developed software tool called Application Traffic Analyzer to provide "near real-time" bandwidth usage information by application flow.

One of the performance control services statically implements bandwidth allocation policies within Cisco routers--while the second service (available by special request) dynamically allocates bandwidth using Packeteer's packet shaping technology.

To round out its portfolio, AT&T provides application acceleration as a custom service using a customer's choice of Cisco, Blue Coat or Riverbed products (with Juniper's WX product to be an added option soon). AT&T is also developing a network-hosted application acceleration alternative.

Verizon Business offers an innovative service with the rather long-winded name of Private IP Application Analysis and Priority. The "analysis" service identifies WAN applications at the desktop, provides bandwidth usage information also from the desktop, and dynamically adjusts throughput to favor critical applications all the way through the network to the desktop. In Verizon's words, the "priority" service "delivers desktop-to-datacenter class of service for mission-critical data." The service, which is delivered via technology from Centrisoft, is unique among the service providers we interviewed.

Verizon Business also offers a conventional line of application performance services, including a measurement service with another long name, Network Management Reporting-Visual Application Integrity. This service, which uses Fluke Networks' Visual Uptime product, provides real-time resource usage and performance information for application flows.

Verizon Business recently rolled out its Managed WAN Optimization Service, which uses Juniper's WXC platform to identify, provide bandwidth usage breakdown information for, and accelerate WAN applications. The service combines monthly performance and trend reporting with what it describes as "quarterly tuning by application analysis consultants."

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.