After more than a year of evaluating PathControl, RouteScience Technologies Inc.'s networking device that automatically improves the performance of ISP connections, Google Inc. on Monday signed on as a RouteScience customer. The move gives credence to the concept of route optimization and may spark additional interest among companies running large Web sites.
PathControl is designed to route and reroute Internet traffic, on the basis of customer preferences, to a number of ISPs with which an enterprise may have service contracts. According to RouteScience executives, the technology is especially useful for determining the best path possible to send traffic as dictated by the availability, congestion, and cost of any given ISP link.
"Signing Google [as a customer] speaks volumes," said Greg Howard, principal analyst at The High Tech Resource Consulting Group in San Andreas, Calif. "Especially in these days where companies are not investing in new technologies for the sake of technology."
Google's move plays a huge role in the acceptance of route optimization technology, according to Howard. "There are two school of thought out there today: One says companies are less likely to do business with startups; [the other says they] are more likely because they actually have products shipping," he said. "Google is doing well, and they will inspire confidence in other shops thinking about this type of technology."
Rob Pursell, director of corporate and product marketing at RouteScience in San Mateo, Calif., explained that Google initially used the PathControl device to understand how its traffic was being distributed by its four ISP connections. Based on that information, Google added four more ISPs.
"With PathControl, Google got performance visibility," Pursell said. "By distributing their traffic automatically to the best performing link, Google also got a cost benefit."
Google's goal was to address so-called Internet brownouts. During a brownout, load times slow due to packet loss or latency over any given ISP link. Latency can last anywhere from 5 minutes to several hours, Pursell said, and PathControl is capable of sensing the slowdown in real time and rerouting the traffic to another ISP link.
"The BGP [Border Gateway Protocol] protocol, which we correct, can't sense packet loss," said Andy Gottlieb, vice president of marketing at RouteScience. "If UUNet, for example, had an outage or even overloaded link, the router couldn't detect it itself."
Urs Hoelzle, a fellow at Google, noted two benefits of route optimization products. "They provide better routing and brownout protection," he said.
Hoelzle added that PathControl is specifically good for faster network round-trips, reduced packet loss, and avoiding temporary ISP problems. "Time will tell in which area route optimization will turn out to be more valuable," Hoelzle said.
In addition to naming Google a customer, RouteScience also announced a number of enhancements to the software found on the PathControl RSOS (RouteScience Operating System) device. Version 2.0 of RSOS runs on both versions of the PathControl products, including the PathControl 3000 and 5000 series, and now helps enterprises avoid the extra costs often associated with the usage billing structure ISPs employ.
ISPs often charge based on 5 percent of total monthly usage, RouteScience's Gottlieb said. ISPs choose the 5 percent of the heaviest traffic loads, which often results in heavier tariffs.
"The new feature lets customers target usage levels of each link and makes sure [the customer doesn't] go over," Gottlieb said. "We make billing predictable, and people love that."
RSOS enhancements are currently available for free upgrade.