Internap buys Sockeye on route-control land grab

An Internet service provider (ISP) that aims to guarantee packet delivery over all major Internet backbones plans to expand its services after its acquisition of route-control hardware and service provider Sockeye Networks Inc., which was announced Monday.

The Internet service provider (ISP), Atlanta-based Internap Network Services Corp., is staking out the fledgling route-control industry for technology to expand its service offering. Also Monday, the company announced it has completed a deal struck last month to acquire privately held NetVMG Inc., a maker of route-control appliances in Fremont, California. Internap sees still more acquisition candidates in the industry, said Greg Peters, president and chief executive officer of Internap.

To buy privately-held Sockeye, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, Internap will issue about US$1.75 million worth of stock to Sockeye investors. Peters declined to estimate the value of the NetVMG deal, a complex all-stock transaction. Internap, which currently has about 335 employees, does not expect the acquisitions to lead to any layoffs, he said.

Both Sockeye and NetVMG make appliances and software for picking the best network route to a given destination. Companies that have signed up with more than one Internet provider, either to save money or to make sure they always have a connection, a practice called "multi-homing," use such boxes to take advantage of the best performance or price to a destination at a given time. Sockeye packages its device with a service that analyzes the performance of the Internet. Router giant Cisco Systems Inc. also has expressed interest in this kind of technology.

Internap likewise hunts down the best path for Internet traffic. It operates points of presence at data centers in the U.S., Japan and the U.K., with leased circuits between them on all the major carriers' networks. By analyzing the performance of different carriers' backbones and choosing the best one in a given area, Internap can guarantee 100 percent network availability in the continental U.S. and between the U.S. and Europe, according to the company's Web site. It can also guarantee a certain minimum level of latency and packet loss, said Ali Marashi, Internap's chief technology officer.

Sockeye's technology will strengthen Internap's ability to see the whole Internet, even outside the paths customers need at the moment, providing an "early warning system" that detects performance problems that may cause problems later, Marashi said. Taking software from Sockeye and NetVMG, Internap also will improve the customer's view of network performance, including new statistics.

Being able to offer customers the hardware and software from NetVMG and Sockeye also extends Internap's reach far beyond its own points of presence, 29 of which are in the U.S., one in Tokyo and one in London, Peters said. And the ISP sees some companies "multi-homing" with Internap and other service providers. The new offerings can serve those customers, he said.

Internap plans to combine the best of NetVMG's and Sockeye's technology, first by integrating elements of their software and later with new hardware, Peters said. The first phase of software integration should take place by year's end, he said.

"We're going to pull the code together into the right format and then have one universal appliance device that we're going to deliver," Peters said.

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