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Test & Measurement

Carriers Get Internet Savvy

IP network operators are using a new competitive intelligence tool based on routing technology that shows them how well their networks, and those of all their competitors, are performing in real time and on a historical basis.

Operators such as TeliaSonera International Carrier (TIC) and the U.K.'s Telecomplete Ltd.; The London Internet Exchange Ltd. (LINX); and government agencies, including The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), are already using services from Renesys Corp. to get a global view of Internet performance. (See Renesys Offers IP Vision.)

In a nutshell, Renesys, which is privately held and funded by private investors, has spent the past five years developing patent-pending technology that "talks in BGP [border gateway protocol] to service provider networks, establishes a peering relationship with the networks, collects data from their routing tables, integrates it, and stores it," says Renesys president and chief scientist, Andy Ogielski.

This data is then used to provide a service called Routing Intelligence, which detects and identifies interruptions and slowdowns in Internet connections that can affect service levels. This effectively gives carriers visibility into problems outside their own networks, and can even provide alarms about outages on other operators' networks. That's a service targeted at service provider network engineers, notes Ogielski.

But the data is also used to provide operators' marketing, sales, and management teams with competitive intelligence on their rivals. The Market Intelligence service provides lists of the customers connected to each carrier's networks, shows how those customer relationships have changed over time, and can rank the world's carriers rank against each other in an Internet Index.

"It can tell carriers who their main rivals are, show them who is stealing their customers, and even give them an idea about who they should acquire," says Ogielski.

The Renesys man says he doesn't know of anything similar that's available, "but I know that France Telecom, Telecom Italia, and NTT have all tried to develop something themselves at some point, but failed. It wouldn't be possible for someone to compete, but it would take a long time and be very difficult."

And the services are proving a hit with at least one early adopter. Peter Cohen, global peering manager at TeliaSonera International, says he can't reveal precisely how his company is using the Renesys service, but states: "It's a really cool tool, a powerful tool that aggregates a lot of data. All our competitors will have to have it. It's providing something that's been missing from the Internet -- a qualitative and quantitative ranking system that is accurate and objective."

Adds Cohen: "Before we only had data from our own network and a few others, but this gives us a view of the whole Internet. It's a definite leap forward from what we have been doing. There could be other tools out there that can do this, but if they exist I haven't seen them."

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

jepovic 12/5/2012 | 2:51:02 AM
re: Carriers Get Internet Savvy You're misunderstanding the tool. This is about solving routing problems, not performance problems (delay, packet loss). Naturally, it helps tons if you can see not only how you "see" other networks, but how other networks see you and how they see eachother. Hard to explain in plain text - whiteboard anyone? ;-)

And as for the second issue, to me that's exactly what the tool solves - it gives you the other point of view.
turing 12/5/2012 | 2:51:02 AM
re: Carriers Get Internet Savvy The idea of looking at BGP tables from multiple peering partners and providing custom views is a cool one. But to quote the balancer of the Force: don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. You don't really know the "performance" of the carrier's network based on BGP. Unless by performance you mean how many routes.

Sure you can see how many routes appear/disappear, and their origin and AS path info to you, but you can't correlate that to transport capacity/performance in terms of quality. Even if you ICMP ping specific hops, you're only testing how fast they respond to ping - not their forwarding ability.

Also, I'm no BGP expert, but can you really know the path packets take based on the tables you receive? I thought BGP exchanged tables to let the other carrier know prefixes and their paths for sending packets to you, not how you would send to them. In other words you're telling your peer "I can reach prefix X in Y bgp hops, and if you send me packets for prefix X they will get there in Y bgp hops". But it doesn't tell the peer whether you're going to send packets from X to the peer over this connection. And it doesn't tell the peer your local preferences, filtered routes, etc. And you could even be changing the AS path list before telling the peer, so even that could be wrong, no?

p.s. the Renesys Corp link is broken. Should be www.renesys.com
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 2:50:55 AM
re: Carriers Get Internet Savvy I thought that SBCs or some other VoIP-related gateways served to hide internal routes from "peering" partners. Is there no gateway a service provider could use to hide their routes and stymie this box?
turing 12/5/2012 | 2:50:42 AM
re: Carriers Get Internet Savvy This is about solving routing problems, not performance problems (delay, packet loss).

Ahh, sorry - I was confused by LR's article, which used the words "Internet Performance" and said: "This data is then used to provide a service called Routing Intelligence, which detects and identifies interruptions and slowdowns in Internet connections that can affect service levels."

So in my mind they were implying transport performance, not routing protocol behavior.
turing 12/5/2012 | 2:50:42 AM
re: Carriers Get Internet Savvy I thought that SBCs or some other VoIP-related gateways served to hide internal routes from "peering" partners. Is there no gateway a service provider could use to hide their routes and stymie this box?

Yes that was my point. SBC's do it for voip I guess, but any peering router can do it for BGP. It can filter routes, aggregate them, change their path lengths, etc. And it's not 1:1 with traffic forwarding. Just because carrier A tells you it has route X of path length 2, and carrier B tells you it has route X of path length 3, does not mean anyone uses carrier A to reach route X. (unless it's an origin route belonging to carrier A)

Unless this tool/box connects to all carriers and guarantees the routes it gets from them are unfiltered, it sounds like you're just seeing what they want you to see based on where you connect.

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