As businesses extend their reach to more corners of the world, wouldn't it be nice if you could monitor any Internet service provider from any location? Thankfully, Dyn, which sells DNS management tools, acquired Renesys earlier this year and extended the features of the Renesys' Internet Intelligence product.
Internet Intelligence is an interesting product and has solid value. Before it was available, if you wanted to ping any IP address or Internet provider, you would have to know the location of either and try to piece together what is happening from the results. It was time intensive and tedious. II makes this process easier by having several basic troubleshooting routines that are available:
- First, you can look at the path and ping latencies to a specific IP address. This is useful if you are trying to track down why users in certain locations are complaining about slow throughput to a particular site. You can look at how IP traffic flows to this address and the paths that traffic normally takes between two cities and see if there are particularly long latencies observed.
- You can also view latencies from more than 130 collection points to more than 800 cities. You can look at data that has been collected from these monitoring points in near real time or over the past three months, and see which providers are delivering better or worse performance.
- Set up alerts for specific city pairs or Internet providers. II will automatically notify you of changes to Internet conditions, which could be precursors to man-in-the-middle attacks, router errors or other Internet mischief. These alerts can be sent to you via email as well as visible on the main II dashboard. Each city pair or destination IP address can be added to a custom dashboard so you can at a glance see what is going on across your network infrastructure, and how the public Internet is performing over time.
The combination of these tools can help anyone figure out if the problem is on your end or with a specific Internet provider. Over the years, Renesys has been the go-to company for understanding how the different Internet providers work together. Dyn plans on incorporating more of its products and extending the II platform, but it is off to a great start.
For example, let's say your corporate headquarters is in Salt Lake City, and you are looking to open a branch in Albuquerque, N.M. II will show you that there are at 24 ISPs that provide connectivity between the two cities. Over the past three months, the best performing connections were from Cogent, which had latencies from 23-34 ms.
The worst was Verizon which delivered between 67-135 ms of service. That is quite a variation, and to figure out why you can drill down further and see the particular carriers that move traffic between these two cities: in Cogent's case, they go through a Los Angles-based node of AboveNet, while Verizon passes its traffic back through a GTT node in Virginia, which could be why their latencies are higher.
You could have probably gotten this information from doing a series of your own traceroutes, but II can show this information quickly, and in graphical form, and from just about any place around the world.
Speaking of which, II produces a number of graphical reports that can be easily interpreted by management. At a glance, you can see who are the best and worst connectivity providers from around the world. This is useful if you are unhappy with your current ISP and want to switch providers to improve your website response time, or if you are purchasing bandwidth from an ISP that has to go through numerous uplinks to get to the Internet with higher than average latencies from your location. Or if you are thinking about opening a new office and want to find the best collection of ISPs that can provide service.
II isn't the only one that collects this information: you can also get freely available Internet peering point performance from the European Network Internet Registry called RIPE here. And there are services such as WhatIsMyIP.com that offer this too. However, either site is very limited with just a few routers or the information is outdated. Dyn maintains a richer Internet infrastructure that is more flexible and capable, plus being more current.
II isn't without its faults. It is only collecting ping or traceroute traffic: it would be nice to also collect performance on higher-level protocols such as HTTP or FTP traffic too. Dyn representatives said the II platform is extensible and is looking into these and other improvements in the future.
Finally, II isn't cheap. A small to average size enterprise would pay $2,000 per month. Custom views, vantage points and targets increase the price per month as well as the number of IP networks that are alarmed. The product includes 10 seats.
Strom is the founding editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine and has written thousands of magazine articles and two books on various IT and networking topics. His blog can be found at strominator.com and you can follow him on Twitter @dstrom. He lives in St. Louis.