Gupta evaluates how to improve 'Net performance'

Gupta evaluates how to improve 'Net performance'

Umang Gupta, a former Oracle executive and the founder and former CEO of Gupta Technologies, recently joined Keynote Systems as chairman and CEO. Keynote provides Internet performance information on a subscription basis to corporations. Jessica Davis talked with Gupta about his new role and plans for Keynote going forwardIDG: Talk a little bit about that technology in this space. Internet performance evaluation is fairly new.

Gupta: Correct, it's very new. Essentially, for the last three years people have been simply putting up Web sites regardless of performance and doing their best. And whenever anybody looks to performance, they look at the Web server or they focus on the speed of the client; having a slower modem vs a faster modem.

Most people don't realise, but as much as 80 per cent of performance on the Internet can be affected not by how fast your server is or how fast your client is, but what happens in between in the sort of Internet cloud, so to speak. And that's because the Internet is a collection of many different backbones owned by different companies, and lots of cooperating servers working with each other through routers and the like.

So . . . sometimes you will get performance in one city that is different from performance in another city for the same Web site.

How can they use the information they get from you to ensure the quality of their Web sites?

In a number of different ways. We measure the performance of multiple URLs from 50 agents worldwide right now. These agents are placed in strategic locations on various backbones in various metropolitan areas of the United States and overseas.

And if you, for example, found that you were having consistently bad performance throughout the day from all the cities in the world for your particular URL, it doesn't take very much to figure out that it's probably a problem on your server and nowhere else.

On the other hand, if you found that you had a problem only from Chicago and no other city, then it's highly likely that the problem is localised to some backbone-type networking problem in Chicago. If you went down further and then analysed within Chicago - perhaps there are only, let's say, five different ISPs you can use to connect up to the Internet - and you found the problem only exists on the agents placed for one ISP [and] not the others, then you could further localise it to a particular ISP access problem.

So by getting data from multiple sites, multiple metropolitan areas across the world over lots of periods of time, and then specifically deriving information as to where the problem is, we can localise the problem.

So you've worked with your customers to talk about these problems with ISPs where a bottleneck may exist?

Absolutely. We work with our customers, who in turn work with their ISPs, and we help the two to cooperate [and manage] their quality of service. We often work with ISPs just by themselves, who are in turn offering our service to their customers to be able to guarantee that quality of service. And many times we'll work directly with corporate customers without an ISP involved, because fundamentally they're hosting their own Web site and they just want to be able to do the best from multiple cities.

Are you partnering with any ISPs?

Yes. In the case of Digex, for example, which is a major Web-hosting ISP in the United States, they are bundling our service to their top 100 or so "Platinum" customers.

Are you close to agreements with anyone else right now?

We have agreements with many of the others too, and we expect that many others will also start to undertake the kind of scale that we are undertaking with Digex.

How about any technology-type partnerships to enhance the services that you offer?

Yes . . . once we've pinpointed a problem, you still need to do something about it, and you may very well need tools that go beyond what we offer. Usually those are Web-based diagnostic tools, and most of those are system management tools such as Tivoli or Computer Associates Unicenter.

A lot of these companies sell tools and software to be able to manage performance on both Internets and intranets.

Our service is quite useful in these situations, and we hope to be working with these companies to embed our service within their toolset.

In fact, we have recently undertaken just such an agreement with Network Associates, and we certainly hope to do similar deals with many others.

Can you tell me what opportunities there are for Keynote in the world where telecommunications and the Internet converge?

Oh, tremendous opportunities. One of the most interesting areas to look at going forward with the convergence of telecom and Internet is Internet-based telephony.

It's a hot area right now - everybody wants to start to provide long-distance services on the Internet, but how do you provide quality of service on Internet telephony?

The phone companies have been providing quality of service on public switched networks for decades. But on the Internet where things are relatively free right now, it's much tougher to provide that quality of service.

And one of the things we think [would be] a great opportunity for Keynote would be to extend our quality of service measurement mechanisms to Internet telephony.

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