KeyLabs set to unlock P-to-P portal

Technology testing outfit KeyLabs (Lab Acquisition Corp.) is set to officially unveil a customer portal within weeks, reflecting a new campaign to turn its raft of tailored services into branded product offerings.

Custom-built with Java, the portal at will leverage application monitoring technology from Atesto and United Devices' peer-to-peer network to give customers Web-based access to a range of "test on demand" services under the KeyAssurance brand name. The portal is currently undergoing beta testing with selected customers.

The news signals the first concrete step forward as Lindon, Utah-based KeyLabs rebuilds its business after the same management team that agreed to sell the company to Exodus Communications Inc. in February 2000 regained independence in September 2001, just prior to Exodus' filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In fact, the company only began generating enough revenue to begin paying employees again in December 2001, according to JD Brisk, KeyLabs' chief executive officer. In an interview during an IT media tour of Utah-based companies this week, Brisk said his employees worked for 10 weeks without pay to restart the company. "We've had to rethink our approach to compensation," he said. As a result, all employees work flexible hours and accept conditions under which salaries can fall or rise dramatically, depending on the success of the company.

"One thing we learned from Exodus is the ability to productize our offerings," said President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Fahnert on Tuesday. Originally formed as a network testing lab in 1996, KeyLabs now boasts a raft of services encompassing functionality testing, pre-release quality assurance testing for vendors such as HP and Compaq, and security and vulnerability testing.

Although the individual testing offerings are yet to be named, Fahnert said the products are key to shifting revenues from ad-hoc, custom deals to securing a regular revenue stream from the maintenance life cycle. "Even if they don't buy the box, it gets us in the door a lot quicker," he said.

Meanwhile, the portal signals the company's belief in the ability to harness the power of distributed peer-to-peer networks and test Web applications across the "last mile" to users' desktops. In the case of United Devices, more than 1 million users have downloaded its agent software that can be tapped for simulating real demand on customer Web sites, for example.

KeyLabs most recently used this technology to test MSNBC's Olympic Games site. More than 30,000 users were tapped to generate real load demand for the site prior to the games, using different browsers and connection speeds and originating from different geographic areas.

Many tools vendors argue they can conduct a similar testing environment virtually on a one server, Fahnert said. "But the transaction accuracy always suffers," he said.

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