Ethernet customers are becoming increasingly savvy about the performance of their services. First adopted by enterprises and wireless carriers to backhaul best-effort Internet, email and file-server applications, Ethernet is now increasingly carrying business-critical voice, video and transactional applications. IT groups at the Fortune 500s and operations staff maintaining 3G wireless are starting to keep a close eye on performance. Now, when Ethernet goes down, a simple 3 step process begins: first outage, call service provider; second outage, change service provider; third outage, find a new job.
To avoid this unpalatable third step, Ethernet customers want to open the hood on their service level agreements (SLAs). They no longer just want financial penalties when services don’t live up to latency, jitter and availability specs – they want to see what happened and to know who’s to blame. And their demands aren’t easy to meet. They’re asking for real-time reporting over web-portals, so they can check up on their SLA and service performance at any time – and they expect their service provider to provide this visibility or they’ll find one that will (step 2).
Amazingly, despite the monitoring, back-office and security headaches customer performance-reporting portals pose, service providers who bit the bullet are happy they did. Conversations I’ve had recently with leading ILECs and CLECs in the northeast U.S. indicate that over 60% of Ethernet issues originate within the customer site – end-to-end connectivity issues they want to pin on their provider are usually LAN or CPE problems. Customers with portals require far less support – these accounts call them less, blame them less, and resolve issues faster when they know when the problem is theirs to fix.
Service providers benefit in other ways that are just as important. Their customers come to appreciate how solid the provider’s network is, building loyalty and a cooperative – instead of hostile – relationship that builds long term value. Providers can use historic performance and usage reporting to show customers when they need to upgrade their service – to higher bandwidth, a higher service tier (silver to gold SLAs), or to add incremental services (e.g. traffic shaping or EIR / burst allowances). The portal ultimately puts the service provider in the driver’s seat – less operations staff in reaction mode, and a gateway to growing business with the most valuable customers: the ones they already have.
Implementing Ethernet service portals doesn’t have to be dental-level painful – with proper demarcation and centralized monitoring many providers find that it’s much quicker and less costly than they thought. By hosting portals directly from operations’ systems, IT staff involvement is minimal, streamlining the logistics and politics of getting customers connected.