During my visit to Sockeye, technicians simulated the typical customer experience, using the Syracuse labs as the customer. The technicians gathered our ASN (autonomous system number), the IP addresses of our Internet routers and the read SNMP community string. They used this information to configure the appliance so when I received it at Syracuse, I could simply plug it into the network. The Sockeye device also required that the customer enter a couple of simple commands in the Internet routers to set up iBGP (interior BGP) peering with the appliance as well as turn on SNMP to monitor bandwidth. Customers might also need to turn on Cisco Systems NetFlow, which provides a method of tracking traffic flows at the TCP/IP layers. Sockeye also will pull NetFlow data from Juniper Networks and Foundry Networks routers that support it.
The setup did not require a lot of time nor expertise, and Sockeye says it's willing to walk any customer through the process. I chose the Genuity and Qwest Internet feeds coming into Sockeye's lab for our two Internet connections. I needed only about two hours to set up everything, including the installation of the configured 1U Sockeye appliance in a rack. Once installed, it started analyzing traffic data every five minutes.
Sockeye's approach to monitoring is to start out with a baseline of networks and ASs (autonomous systems) provided by Akamai Technologies, probe the ASs and build from there. The appliance immediately starts measuring the packet loss and latency to scan points -- individual end points within each network or AS. These scan points provide the best indication of performance to what Sockeye calls routable entities. The latency and packet-loss statistics are combined to provide a score, termed a shortfall score, that is compared for each local Internet connection. If the shortfall score for accessing a routable entity via an ISP is 5 percent better than it was for the ISP being used, the GlobalRoute appliance uses the BGP next-hop attribute, which simply redirects the traffic to the appropriate router interface.
The main activity screen does an excellent job summarizing the state of routable entities. A color-coded table lists each, along with the shortfall score for each entity's local ISP connections and the link in use. The screen also displays a time stamp of the last change and lists the reason for the change. To develop a comfort level with the product, you can run the appliance in suggest mode, which shows suggested changes.