NationalGeographic.com tests SLA monitoring service

NationalGeographic.com will begin trials this week on a service that measures the performance of outsourced network services, such as those from application service providers, against that promised in service-level agreements (SLAs).

Scott Santulli, vice president of operations technology at NationalGeographic.com, the Web site of the Washington-based National Geographic Society, said he hopes the Total Outsourcer Management service (TOM) from AperServ Technologies Inc. in Vienna, Virginia, will help him track the performance of a service provider that operates the business-to-consumer system for National Geographic Society-branded products. Santulli declined to name the provider.

The TOM service compares metrics specified in SLAs to actual performance of outsourced services, including ad serving, caching, content feeds and application performance, said Tim Keough, chief technology officer (CTO) at AperServ. The service will be available beginning next week. Performance measurements are made at intervals specified by the TOM user, he explained.

When performance deteriorates below the threshold specified in an SLA, TOM issues a trouble ticket, notifies the customer and the offending service provider, then follows through with the service provider until the issue is resolved. TOM then calculates credits due to customers from service providers for SLA noncompliance, Keough said.

The service can pinpoint problems "down to the server and router hop level," and in instances where multiple service providers are involved, it can "discover which provider is responsible for the problem," claimed Keough.

"AperServ is attempting to become a trusted third party that measures SLA compliance," said John McConnell, a consultant on SLAs and president and chief executive officer (CEO) of McConnell Associates in Boulder, Colorado.

While other performance-measurement services, such as those offered by Keynote Systems Inc. in San Mateo, California, focus on measuring network delays and Web page availability, AperServ is "more about [measuring] completion of business processes, such as when application servers are down," McConnell said.

Another service, called Technology Internal Management, which measures the performance of internally hosted systems and intranets, would also be available from AperServ beginning next week, said Keough. He added that other companies testing TOM include Web portal provider Lycos Inc. in Waltham, Massachusetts, and The Discovery Channel, a unit of Discovery Communications Inc. in Bethesda, Maryland.

The services are priced starting at US$1,500 per month. Keough said the AperServ would offer interested companies a 60-day free trial.

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