Cutting Transaction Time

RouteScience's PathControl traffic management system boosts performance for FreeMarkets.

Eighty to 100 ms may not sound like a lot of time, but when you shave that much off the time it takes each customer to do business on your Web site, it adds up.

FreeMarkets Inc., a sponsor of business-to-business online auctions, is cutting its customers transaction time by 80 to 100 ms by using a traffic management system from RouteScience Technologies Inc. Called PathControl, the system measures Free-Markets application performance over the Internet for its own customers, determines the best service provider path and automatically updates its edge routers in real time.

With offices on all five continents and customers throughout, FreeMarkets had to enlist an engineer to make manual changes to traffic routing whenever a customer—primarily Fortune 500 companies looking for ways to improve their sourcing—had problems gaining access to its applications. The Pittsburgh e-sourcing vendor uses several Tier 1 and Tier 2 ISPs but found that the Tier 1 providers do not always offer the fastest routes and that manual routing changes were not always effective.

"We were using BGP [Border Gateway Protocol], which makes bad decisions about the best path on the Internet," said John Benzinger, vice president of IT at FreeMarkets.

PathControl, which is useful only to e-businesses with more than one Internet link at a site, not only improves the speed of customer transactions slowed by congestion on particular routes but, perhaps more importantly, ensures the ability of transactions for those having trouble getting access at all.

"We had a customer in Australia who could not get to us with BGP," Benzinger said. "One of the Tier 1 providers was having a problem on their network somewhere in Asia."

RouteScience founders originally envisioned PathControl primarily as a tool to reduce network costs by allowing e-businesses to buy connectivity from the lowest-cost service providers. However, FreeMarkets is using it more as a service guarantee tool. "A lot of companies that are deploying this were more about getting the lowest cost so they could get Tier 2 providers," Benzinger said. "Our goal is to have a highly available environment, not just to save costs."

According to RouteScience, in San Mateo, Calif., transactions will move more than twice as fast on average and as much as 10 times faster for poorly served end users. "With PathControl, it makes it really tough to demand premium prices for high-bandwidth Internet service," said Andy Gottlieb, vice president of marketing at RouteScience. "Youre now giving control to an enterprise where they didnt have it before."

FreeMarkets appreciates the level of network control it maintains with the use of RouteScience products. Rather than paying a service provider to improve routing and thereby allow the provider access to its network, FreeMarkets owns and controls the security of its own network components.

PathControl provides data that enterprises can use to monitor their service providers performance. "By looking at the performance data were getting, I can use it to hold my ISPs accountable for their [service-level agreements]," Benzinger said.