Cisco-backed start-up launches new tool

Product samples network data every few milliseconds to make sure resources are allocated properly.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read
An Irish start-up funded by networking giant Cisco Systems says it has developed a network-monitoring tool that will take the guesswork out of planning for voice and video services on an Internet Protocol network.

On Monday, Dublin-based Corvil announced CorvilNet 1.1, software that monitors IP networks to help network managers assess how much bandwidth is needed to run specific applications, like voice over IP and IP video. In doing so, Corvil is aiming to help large companies and service providers, who have struggled for years to find a balance between allocating too much bandwidth capacity and not enough capacity to support all their networking needs.

If not enough bandwidth is available, applications run slowly, which can cause big problems for time-sensitive applications like voice and video. Network administrators also run the risk of allocating too much bandwidth, which wastes valuable resources. For a large company, this means overspending on telecommunications services. And for carriers, it means giving away bandwidth for free that could have been used to generate revenue from other customers.

Capacity planning for IP networks is nothing new. A slew of monitoring tools from companies like Concord Communications already exist to tackle this problem. But Corvil claims its product is different from traditional monitoring tools. While software from other companies samples traffic every few minutes, Corvil's product samples traffic every couple of milliseconds. Using specially developed mathematical algorithms, the Corvil software analyzes over 60,000 times more measurement data than typical monitoring software and summarizes it in a single 160-byte message. These messages are sent to a central server, where they're stored and used to generate traffic reports.

"VoIP or video over IP are affected by events happening at a very granular level," said Peter Doyle, director of marketing for Corvil. "They are much more sensitive to latency than Web browsing or e-mail."

The company's technology has already gotten a big endorsement from Cisco, which holds an 8 percent stake in it. Cisco invested in the company during its second round of funding, in March 2003. Since Corvil's official founding in 2000, it has raised $18 million. The technology used to build the product was developed in the early 1990s at the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, which is associated with Trinity College. Doyle would not disclose the specifics of the company's partnership with Cisco.

"Cisco has spent a number of years evaluating the technology," he said. "We work closely with them in terms of developing the technology and in the field."

Currently, Corvil's software is sold on a separate hardware appliance, but Doyle said that it could be used on other networking products, like IP routers. This would be a good fit for Cisco, which leads the world in IP router sales. Corvil's complementary technology and the fact that Cisco is an investor makes it a possible acquisition target for the networking giant. Several of Cisco's recent purchases have been small private companies that it has invested in, including Parc Technologies, Actona Technologies and Procket Networks.