Tropos Software Assists Business Planning

By Eric Griffith

February 22, 2007

The focus of the mesh equipment maker's new Insight 2.0 is "business analytics."

If carriers and providers of mesh networks didn't feel they were getting enough from the software that runs their nets, Tropos Networks has an answer: upgrade. The company's new Insight data analysis module, now in version 2.0, continues a focus for the company on providing better info for providers.

"The installations [of mesh networks] are getting larger and larger, as we move from networks like Chaska (Minn.) to them being Philadelphia- and Anaheim- and Corpus Christi-style," says Bert Williams, Tropos vice president of marketing, referring to some of the big-name metro-Wi-Fi networks using Tropos MetroMesh gear. "It's not just larger footprints, but networks with providers with numerous networks throughout the country, EarthLink being the prototypical example of that. They want a centralized way to manage those networks."  (He wouldn't confirm EarthLink as a current user, but said some customers are running 2.0 now.)

Williams says Insight 2.0 provides "comprehensive network visibility with a number of features for the business decision maker at the provider, to help them understand usage patterns, subscriber satisfaction, and where to target investment."

Key to the new software is the pre-processing of data collected from access points on the end-user's edge of the network using the new Correlated Mesh Data Protocol (CMDP) Tropos developed. They say it doesn't slow things down by keeping too much management traffic on the network.

"We collect information on what users are doing, how the network is performing," says Saar Gillai, vice president of engineering and product management for Tropos. "But it's not all that useful unless it is correlated." The data can be held for as long as the provider has storage for it, and used by helpdesks to pinpoint areas of trouble on the mesh.

Showing the interface, Williams provided an example that was telling. He showed a network with 1,787 users online, but only eight of those clients were responsible for transferring half of the total traffic on the network. "That might be something to take advantage of from a business perspective," he says, such as directing such heavy users to premium service, or applying a rate limit if the provider considers that an abusive use of the network. The software can also indicate the type of traffic, and could show the actual files downloaded, though Tropos says that currently none of its customers have asked for that level of granularity. Yet.

Other data they can check includes the signal-to-noise ratio and packet error rate, both correlated to show the worst signals so the provider can go out and address that deficiency.

Mobility trends are also easily visible, as the software tracks clients whether they're stationary and associating with two local access points, or actually connected to different APs in totally disparate locations.

"This really enables new services, knowing who's mobile, so you can charge more for mobility or using location info to do targeted advertising and marketing," says Williams.

Insight 2.0 includes 100 reports, up from the 40 included in the first version from 2005. Most are aimed directly at better business analysis. The software now runs on more operating systems (such as RedHat Linux) and can run with the Tropos Control management system or on its own. It's available at no charge to existing support customers with the base products from Tropos.

Last week, Tropos introduced another new software addition, this time coupled with the MetroMesh hardware. SABRE (the Spectrum and Application Based Routing Engine) sets up rules for traffic, making sure to carry "different applications on different spectrum and radios," both licensed and unlicensed, according to the company. Tropos gave the example of using a Tropos 5320 unit with a 5 GHz radio for video and a 2.4 GHz radio for consumer use, with SABRE switching the camera to 2.4 GHz if it's less congested. SABRE will be part of each Tropos MetroMesh router starting mid-year, and will be available as an upgrade to existing customers.



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