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Executive Editor

Sockeye tunes up route-control gear

Mar 10, 20034 mins

Upgraded equipment from Sockeye Networks gives customers employing lines from more than one service provider the potential to save more money on Internet access bills.

WALTHAM, MASS. – Upgraded equipment from Sockeye Networks gives customers employing lines from more than one service provider the potential to save more money on Internet access bills.

The company last week rolled out Version 3.0 of GlobalRoute, the upgraded route-control software that runs Sockeye’s route-control appliances. Version 3.0 takes into account the multitiered billing schemes ISPs use in determining how much to charge customers.

Route-control technology uses information about congestion, network failures, quality requirements, cost and other factors to divide WAN traffic among two or more carriers. Usually residing on a specialized appliance and sometimes enhanced with monitoring services, it can help companies, hosting providers and other users save money and get the network performance they want. In this case, by using actual billing criteria in setting GlobalRoute policy means the device can make better pricing decisions. Previously, GlobalRoute would accept only a single price per link regardless of how many tiers made up the price structure.

No fudge

“Before, we could get [GlobalRoute] to do what we wanted, but it required more effort and tweaking,” says Josh Richards, CTO of Digital West Networks, a hosting provider that uses four ISPs to connect its San Louis Obispo, Calif., data center to the Internet. “You kind of had to fudge your numbers a little bit. Now we can set different tiers and put in exactly what prices we’ve contracted for.”

Sockeye’s gear sits on Digital West’s network as a peer to the company’s edge routers and Internet routers that share Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) updates. These BGP updates alter route tables in these routers in choosing the ISP that requires the fewest router hops to reach a given destination address.

Sockeye equipment uses this BGP data but blends in the cost of each link and chooses the one that costs the least but still meets performance standards customers set.

Sockeye and its competitors, including netVmg and Proficient Networks, are working toward fine-tuning their software so it makes these decisions more intelligently (see, DocFinder: 4646).

GlobalRoute 3.0 stores data about each provider’s billing practices and uses the information to pick the least-expensive ISP that meets performance requirements. Customers enter four factors: the number of billing tiers carriers have, whether each tier is billed at a flat rate or by usage, what the billing cycle is and whether charges are determined by a method known as 95th percentile billing. With this usage-based billing technique, providers throw out the top 5% of peaks in demand and base the bill on the next highest peak.

Until GlobalRoute 3.0, customers could enter only one flat price per megabit of bandwidth per ISP even though ISPs have multiple pricing tiers depending on how many megabits customers actually use. Customers had to estimate a single fee they hoped approximated the actual average cost and enter that number into GlobalRoute, Richards says.

The new software also generates reports for IT executives who want to avoid wading through log files to capture information such as performance and cost comparisons vs. using just BGP, the top destinations that traffic is sent to and which routes are least stable. The software captures this information and displays it as charts and graphs.

“Before, there was some cool stuff but it was more detailed than might be needed day to day. It was hard to find if you didn’t know what you were looking for,” Richards says.

The dashboard displays a set of high-level reports that network administrators can use to monitor network performance. “We leave it up all day and glance at it from time to time,” Richards says.

GlobalRoute 3.0 ships with new gear and is a free upgrade for customers with service contracts.