NetVmg boosts route control capabilities

Small and medium-sized companies can now get help managing Internet access service from multiple carriers as NetVmg Inc. rolls out route-control appliances that start from US$25,000, the company announced Monday.

Also Monday, NetVmg announced it has updated the Flow Control Platform (FCP) software for its appliances, which help companies get the best possible performance and price from multiple Internet service providers. Version 3.0 of the software includes enhancements to help enterprises keep costs low while boosting performance as well as to make more targeted route changes, said Dan Leary, vice president of product management at NetVmg, in Fremont, California.

Worried about reliable Internet access in the wake of financial problems at major carriers such as WorldCom Inc., many enterprises have signed up with more than one service provider, a practice called multihoming, according to Greg Howard, principal analyst at High Tech Resource Consulting Group LLC (HTRC Group), in San Andreas, California. Companies surveyed by HTRC are increasingly reliant on stable Internet service for applications such as VPNs (virtual private networks) and electronic commerce, he added.

Route control technology is designed to get around a problem with multihoming: Once a company has two or more carriers on which to send and receive Internet traffic, it needs to decide how much traffic should go over each carrier. Both cost and performance may go into that equation, which can become very complex. Figuring out the best mix and setting it manually is hard, Howard said.

"For the poor guy who's got to manage this thing, it's a real bear without these types of products," Howard said.

For companies that pay for Internet access by the bit, a route control system that makes intelligent decisions about how to use the available bandwidth may pay for itself in six to 12 months, Howard said.

Some medium-sized enterprises, companies with 100 to 500 employees, already have multihomed Internet access but don't want to pay for a high-end route control platform, he said.

Many companies with multiple providers use BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) on a router to determine which carrier has the best path to a destination. BGP can find the most direct path in terms of the number of different networks on which a packet has to travel, but it can't take into consideration the amount of congestion on that path or the cost of sending a bit across it, NetVmg's Leary said.

With NetVmg's FCP appliances, a company can decide how sensitive it is to cost and how sensitive to network delays and give that information to the FCP. Using it, the FCP sends up-to-date route information to the router at the edge of the enterprise network, Leary said. There may need to be a different route change for each of hundreds of destinations, so it is impractical to make all of them manually, he added.

One new feature in FCP 3.0, called IntelliChoice, lets users rebalance their traffic mix among carriers when some routes need to be shifted to a more expensive carrier for performance. If other traffic assigned to that expensive network would travel just as well on a cheaper network, it can be shifted off to save money. Another feature, IntelliPoint Routing, lets the appliance choose routes based on the location of problems in a network as well as overall performance on a carrier's network. For example, if a carrier is hit with an outage that affects only traffic to certain destinations, IntelliPoint Routing can shift only those routes to another provider rather than pulling away from the carrier all together, Leary said.

Two new appliances from NetVmg are designed to bring the technology to small and medium-sized organizations. The FCP 100 carries a list price of US$25,000. It can control routing of 5,000 simultaneous flows and might be suited to an enterprise that has 5M bps (bits per second) to 15M bps of available carrier bandwidth, Leary said. The FCP 500, priced at US$60,000, can handle 15,000 simultaneous flows. Both are available immediately. The company's existing top-of-the-line platform, the FCP 5000, can handle 100,000 flows simultaneously and is priced at US$175,000.

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