Startup Quarry Touts Application-Specific SLA's

BURLINGTON, MASS. (05/10/2000) - Start-up Quarry Technologies Inc. wants to introduce a new concept: the application-specific service-level agreement (SLA).

This means customers will be able to buy services from carriers that guarantee, for example, that e-commerce applications get priority over other applications.

Quarry will introduce its equipment, dubbed an application service-edge switch, at SuperComm in Atlanta next month.

Besides setting priority for certain applications, the switch will guarantee specific performance levels, the firm says. Service providers using the Quarry switch in their networks will be able to offer SLAs that say certain traffic will never face more than a designated delay and be given a certain amount of bandwidth.

Such guarantees today would have to be engineered by designating frame relay or ATM virtual circuits that support the desired service level for specific applications. Quarry's application service-edge switch will be able to do this with IP traffic by inspecting packets to the application layer if necessary.

Inspection to the network layer may be sufficient to identify traffic flows, Quarry officials say.

Once the switch determines the application in a packet, it applies priority rules set by the service provider for that customer. Application service providers will be able to guarantee performance so applications won't shut down because they are subject to timing-out if there is too much network delay, Quarry says.

The Quarry switch will also be able to gather traffic statistics to make sure that application SLAs are being met. Those statistics can also be used to adjust bandwidth based on the amount of traffic between corporate sites.

The company says it has developed Application Specific Integrated Circuits to handle the processing needed to inspect packets at the application level fast enough to handle Gigabit Ethernet at wire speed. In addition, it has developed a queuing scheme it calls prioritized weighted fair queuing that keeps applications alive during congestion.

The Quarry switch polices traffic in the access portion of carrier networks and will be able to maintain service guarantees as it hands off traffic to IP, ATM and packet-over-SONET networks. Each switch is large enough to handle about 10,000 subscribers, the company says.

The switch will enter trials this summer and is scheduled to ship by year-end.