BroadSoft, Inc. has announced an agreement to acquire Packet Island, Inc., a provider of SaaS-based QoS monitoring tools for VoIP and video networks and services. BroadSoft has stated that it intends to retain all Packet Island employees, and to appoint Packet Island founder and CEO Praveen Kumar as BroadSoft’s PacketSmart Chief Technologist.
As Kumar explains, Packet Island offers a solution that enables service providers and large enterprises to manage the lifecycle of converged IP media services, including video and voice. “In the past several years, as VoIP and video deployments have started taking off, the traditional means of managing these services doesn’t work any more… the fact that these devices report that they’re okay doesn’t necessarily mean that these services are okay,” he says.
The point, Kumar says, is that transient congestion events, as short as 100 milliseconds, can impact VoIP—but those kinds of issues can’t be detected using traditional means. “These devices will say, ‘I’m doing fine,’ because the traditional methodology of management is all about understanding if there are faults in the network, if there are extreme failure points—not to flag those transient issues which are now becoming essential to managing VoIP and video,” he says.
One way to solve that, Kumar says, would be to upgrade and control the end-to-end network, from the cloud all the way to the endpoints. “That’s usually a very expensive proposition, because it involves upgrading cabling, upgrading network devices, and essentially having parallel networks—which defeats the whole purpose of converged networks,” he says. “So that approach doesn’t really fly, particularly in today’s economy.”
Packet Island’s approach, instead, is to manage the service lifecycle. “You understand the capacity and the constraints of the end-to-end network, just fix what you need to fix, and then proactively monitor the quality of experience as seen by the end user from all these endpoints—which goes into deep packet inspection and flow monitoring, as opposed to just device monitoring—and then apply this lifecycle approach for the entire service lifecycle for any service that you deploy,” Kumar says.
To that end, Packet Island’s offering consists of a central service infrastructure that’s either hosted by Packet Island or deployed within a service provider’s data center—as well as the company’s PI-100 micro-appliances, which are used at customer sites to assess and troubleshoot network issues. “They do deep packet inspection and understand application flows, specifically VoIP and data flows, and can track sub-second degradation events in terms of jitter levels, loss levels, etc.,” Kumar says.
That information is then made available within the central infrastructure. “The IT manager or the service provider, when they face problems with specific customer sites, can then quickly characterize what the problem is—and then they can also get to the root cause and provide recommendations in most cases to suggest what the customer can do to fix the problem… usually it’s the diagnosis that takes most of the time, and we basically eliminate that whole phase in most cases and get you directly to the fix,” Kumar says.
And that, Kumar says, helps to solve a key problem for service providers today. “The larger service providers… send truck rolls to customer sites with technicians who spend a lot of time there babysitting and trying to see if the problem happens again… but this is a losing proposition for many service providers, because the cloud-based services space is a low margin business, it’s all about volume, and you can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars at each customer site to troubleshoot problems,” he says.
Kumar says Packet Island’s solution will likely remain separate from BroadSoft’s offering for at least the next year or so, though there is room for quite a bit of integration between the two down the road. “From what we’ve discussed internally at least during these early days, we see potentially some integration with the BroadWorks EMS platform http://www.broadsoft.com/products/broadworks/platform/… there is a lot of troubleshooting we can enable from a signaling perspective,” he says.
The larger aim, Kumar says, is to help BroadSoft’s customers reduce their support costs. “The easier we can make it for BroadSoft’s customers to ramp up their installed base, reduce churn, reduce support costs, and therefore increase their acceleration in the market, it’s really good for everyone… BroadSoft is a leader in this space, and I’m really looking forward to Packet Island adding to the success that BroadSoft has already built,” he says.