End-user monitoring tools help ISPs show their worth

Simpler monitoring tools let non-technical executive customers check whether they are getting their money's worth from ISPs

Senior executives may not necessarily be technical, but they increasingly need to know about network performance. Internet Service Provider (ISP) IXEurope is using a product called Highlight from NetEvidence to pass this information on to chief executives and chief operating officers at its large customers. The product complements existing monitoring tools by providing easy-to-read reports at a lower cost. As ISPs fight for custom, they are increasingly making deals based on service level agreements (SLAs), which provide performance guarantees. This is making performance monitoring an issue for high-ranking executives as well as the IT department, and has produced a requirement for easy-to-read "executive summary" reports. Providing these reports, and giving a view of how the SLA is met, has become another value-add for hard-pressed ISPs. IXEurope initially considered using a Unix freeware package called MRTG (Multi Router Traffic Grapher) but recognised it would need internal technical support and training. A couple of months ago, Andy Castle, engineering director of IXEurope, started using Highlight in-house. Aimed at chief executives and chief operating officers, the product gleans network information for reporting, planning and analysis. The ISP is now offering it to customers, said Castle: "The customers can view the demo and access the reports -- it's quick, easy and so simple to use." The aim is to ensure customers can see whether they're getting what they're paying for -- something service providers might have hesitated to do in the past. "ISPs have been happy to shy away from giving out this sort of information," said netEvidence's product development director Andi Willmott. "It's a trust thing; the more the customer trusts the ISP, the more they'll spend." NetEvidence is cheaper than the leading performance monitoring tool, the eHealth suite from Concord Communications, but the two products are not exactly the same. EHealth includes an SLA monitoring tool, but according to Concord the whole product goes deeper. It can have multiple overlapping SLAs and true end-to-end reporting, said pre-sales consultant at Concord, Andy Waterhouse. Price is where Highlight comes into its own, agreed Willmot of netEvidence: "Unlike traditional network operations which are costly to purchase, support and keep current -- Highlight has low cost of ownership and delivers return on investment benefits in days." NetEvidence's other customers include Worldcom and Energis -- both of whom also use Concord eHealth.

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