Masergy puts Dynamic Service Management in the Palm of Customers' Hands
Masergy is a global service provider that is taking some really interesting steps to empower their customers – including not only a web portal but also a smartphone app that provides real-time control of services!
I recently had a chat with Tim Naramore, CTO of Masergy. Masergy provides a variety of enterprise solutions, including managed cloud networking, unified communications, managed security services and a cloud marketplace. I asked Tim about how Masergy is empowering their customers with their award-winning self-service Intelligent Service Control (ISC) web portal and the corresponding smartphone app. The ISC datasheet describes the basic capabilities of the portal:
- Add or modify services, bandwidth and QoS in real time
- View summary of Masergy services
- Administer user privileges
- View order status and utilization reports
- View current and historical invoices
- Interact with customer support
The ability to modify bandwidth anywhere in the world is a high-profile feature that gets attention from a lot of IT folks. The ISC allows the user to turn the bandwidth up and down, to set up a calendar for capacity changes, and to get pricing for all of the above. Tim told me that Masergy is able to make changes to services in less than 30 seconds after a user request via the ISC portal.
Masergy replicates the functionality of the ISC portal in their ISC smartphone app available on Android and iOS platforms. I asked Tim why Masergy decided to create a smartphone app. He said it was driven by customer requests for network administrators to be able to get updates and make changes using their smartphone. While the administrators could previously access the standard ISC web portal from their phones' browsers, the portal was not lightweight, so usability on phones was not good. The answer was to create an app for the smartphone that was optimized for the small display and the native capabilities. An example of the ISC mobile app's ease of use is humorously shown in this video : [NOTE: if this video object does not appear in your browser, you may view it directly HERE]
I asked whether the app was getting much use. Tim said it was, as indicated by both the metrics gathered from the web services layer (more on that below) as well as from customer requests for new features such as notifications for network events and SLA compliance.
I think that one of the most interesting aspects of the smartphone app is the corresponding support on the server. Tim told me that as a part of the app project, Masergy changed their current portal to use a web services layer with RESTful interfaces. One benefit of this layer is that it provides isolation between the user application and the multiple underlying systems. Another is that it moves the business logic from being embedded in the front end display application (web browser or smartphone app) into the web services layer. A third is the availability of developers and software that comes with this style of interface. All of these changes simplify development and support of user interactions.
The web services layer also enables Masergy to interact with other service providers in a programmatic fashion. This aspect is very important as we move to a more dynamic and programmable network, even across multiple providers. Possible applications include automated ordering and deal status, trouble-ticket bonding and SLA reporting. The interface is currently being used by some of Masergy’s resellers. One blocker in this area is that some service providers want to use old-school Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) interfaces, which are not as lightweight and programmatically friendly as the web services interfaces.
I asked Tim about how the web services interface and its underlying systems could enable new services. For example, could there be a scenario where customers order new services, instead of modifying existing services? Tim laughed and said Masergy could absolutely do this, but one of the issues they had to yet resolve was how to manage sales commissions on the self-service orders.
Tim also mentioned that these web interfaces could also support dynamic private cloud access and described a scenario where Masergy would take a large interconnect to a cloud/hosting partner and then divide it up and use the pieces to provide private access. They are currently engaged in a proof of concept where Masergy provides connectivity and allows a hosting partner to tunnel seamlessly through the Masergy network. Tim said that this topology was great for Cloud bursting and disaster recovery applications.
Finally, I asked Tim whether he thought that Masergy’s initiatives with web services and user control fell into the category of Software-Defined Networking (SDN). He said that he did, as Masergy was providing separation of control and forwarding, and using that control to extend subnets using tunneling technology. I agree with Tim’s view, and I think that this is a great example of how we can start to apply some of the new technologies to provide useful services.
We at Overture have been fortunate to have been working with Masergy for a long time. Masergy is an innovative service provider that is willing to explore new ways of solving problems and creating services. My conversation with Tim Naramore shows that Masergy continues to drive forward with innovation.
About the Author
Prayson Pate is Chief Technology Officer and SVP of R&D at Overture, where he is also a co-founder. Prayson is a technology leader and evangelist with a proven track record leading teams and delivering products. Since 1983 he has been building Carrier Ethernet and telecom products for service providers and network operators around the world - both as an individual developer and as a leader of development teams. Prayson spends much of his time driving adoption of Overture's new Ensemble Open Service Architecture, which includes aspects of automation, virtualization, SDN and NFV. He has a BSEE from Duke, an MSECE from NC State and is the holder of nine US patents.