Tools Raise Web Awareness

Monitoring apps from four companies bring better insight into problems at Internet service providers.

A new class of Internet monitoring tools debuting this summer will enable enterprise Webmasters and service providers to gain better insight into whats wrong with major Internet service providers and backbone connections to the Internet as well as how to make them better.

Four companies—Keynote Systems Corp., Matrix.Net Inc., Mercury Interactive Corp. and Segue Software Inc.—are launching new or revamped products and services this year using the analogy of Internet weather maps.

While the products are a big step up from current offerings, users and analysts said the tools usefulness is restricted by the intelligence of providers networks and the influence customers can exert on service providers when problems arise.

Mercury Interactive officials said their new Topaz WeatherMap product will receive a summer upgrade, and Segue officials said they will launch a similar product by years end.

The tools advance the technology by improving which metrics are tested and how results are delivered. The newest products test for things such as packet latency and can show results over time, said Ido Sarig, vice president of product development for application performance monitoring at Mercury Interactive, in Sunnyvale, Calif.

"The Holy Grail of transaction monitoring is to be able to precisely point out where the [delay] time is being spent," Sarig said. Even so, he said, once the location is pinpointed, security and privacy issues prevent seeing inside the service providers hardware.

"Weve tried to visualize it in such a way that someone other than a network engineer can figure out. The next step is actually being able to have the same level of diagnosis for the Internet itself," said Lloyd Taylor, vice president of technology and operations for Keynote, in San Mateo, Calif.

"The farther along we go, the more intelligence were going to put into this—why its a problem, how long its going to be a problem," said John Quarterman, Matrixs chief technology officer and founder, in Austin, Texas. Matrix will probably add an intranet version for large WANs next year, he added.

Customers like the functionality of such services but see room for improvement. "When youre talking about companies buying gigabytes of traffic, theyre going to look at your measurement reports much like Consumer Reports," said Keynote customer David Samuels, senior director of global IP services at Level 3 Communications Inc., in Broomfield, Colo. "[Customers] want to know what your interconnections look like. ... Thats always been this fuzzy, unknown thing as a service provider." ´