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Optical/IP

Keeping Customers in the Dark

2:10 PM -- Just how trusting are enterprise data managers? And how much do they really need to know about how their data traffic is being handled?

The question arose during a panel I was moderating at Ethernet Expo Americas in New York this week that featured top technology officers at service providers who today are delivering Ethernet services.

Matthew Finnie, CTO of Interoute Communications Ltd. and a favorite panelist of ours for his willingness to be brutally honest, offered the opinion that while his customers often demand detailed information about how their data traffic is handled and how their services are performing, they don't generally do much with that data, and may actually ignore it, once the carrier has proven its trustworthiness.

Finnie opined that customers don't really need all that information in the first place, and given that it's a fair amount of trouble to provide, he'd prefer to end the futile exercise.

His comments didn't provoke major argument among his fellow panelists, which included Doug Junkins, CTO of NTT America Inc. ; Glen Grochowski, member of Technical Staff at XO Communications Inc. ; and Jeffrey Cox, director of Network Research & Technology, BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA).

Everyone seemed to agree that while they have to prove to their customers how well their services perform -- particularly as they are moving into the all-packet world and away from the protections of the Sonet/SDH realm -- those efforts are out of proportion with how often the data actually gets used by customers.

Finnie took it one step further, admitting to actually allowing one customer to remain blissfully ignorant of the fact his company's network services were no longer carried over a traditional SDH network, but on an all-packet infrastructure, because that was the better option.

There was one howl of protest, from Verizon Enterprise Solutions 's Mike Volgende, who was in the audience at the time. He insisted Verizon Business customers, which include many of New York's financial traders, are increasingly sophisticated in what they seek and understand about network services and do make regular use of network performance information and that providing such data is an important part of Verizon's service.

In a conversation a day later, Jeff Schwartz, group manager Global Ethernet WAN Services for Verizon, agreed with Volgende and said he was surprised by the panel's attitude.

"For our customers, this is table stakes," Schwartz said. Verizon has beefed up its Verizon Enterprise Center portal to provide network performance information, along with billing and ordering options, to let its customers not only see what is going on with their network services but also manipulate that data in different ways.

Even Schwartz admitted that not all customers make use of what's available to them, however -- but they do expect the information to be there.

So whose view of the customer is more accurate? Do enterprises prefer to build a relationship of trust and let the service provider take it from there, or are they ever vigilant, demanding to know exactly what transpires when those packets fly out the door?

Let me know what you think.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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