Kentik Review

Enables us to gauge and better monetize our customer traffic

What is our primary use case?

We mainly use it for visibility into our traffic but we use it for DDoS detection as well.

How has it helped my organization?

We're the third-largest tier-one in the world but, prior to deploying Kentik, we were flying largely blind regarding our IP traffic. We didn't have any kind of visibility into where we should be upgrading capacities. Gaining visibility into the traffic with a network at our scale has been huge.

We've been able to do traffic analysis when we're looking at bringing on a customer or, more specifically, when renewing and re-terming a customer. We can take a look at their traffic profiles and put dollars and cents around it. What does it cost us to haul this customer's traffic? Are we making money on this customer's traffic? How much are we making? That allows us to gauge where we can do things, re-term-wise, and still make money. 

We can also do customer prospecting. We can look at our traffic and say, "Hey, here's traffic, either to or from networks, that aren't on net. If we were to bring them on net we would be monetizing traffic that we're currently handling either for free or in some other way. If we were to bring it on, we'd be making money from it.

It has also helped our organization to save money in backbone planning. Previously, if a specific path was full, we would have to throw more bandwidth at it. I think that's what a lot of networks still do. Kentik allows us to see where traffic is really going and coming from. So we've been able to be much smarter about where we choose to upgrade paths. Throwing bandwidth at it costs adding however many more waves. If the traffic goes between A and C instead of A and B and that path happens to be $1,000 a month cheaper, we can make those kinds of changes. We've definitely been able to save money that way.

In addition, the drill-down into detailed views of network activity very much helps to quickly pinpoint locations and causes. We have a handful of saved queries, especially for some of our guys in the NOC who may not be senior-network-engineering-level types, that can be run. It lets them see things at a high level and say, "Okay, there's a spike here." They can drill in from there and get what they're actually after. It's generally DDoS-related in that specific scenario.

We have also used Kentik's months of historical data for forensic work. It tells us what the heck happened. When you're in it, you're just trying to do what you can to get things working again. That historical view allows us to go back and say, "Okay, we had this major outage last week. We know that it was partially due to this, but what actually happened and what was impacted by what was going on?"

Kentik has also decreased our mean time to remediation, with DDoS especially, but also with peering-related issues. We're able to identify and do stuff there as well, more quickly than we were previously. Shooting from the hip, I would say it has decreased our MTTR by 20 percent.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable features have been anything around traffic engineering: being able to determine the source or destination of a surge of traffic, whether it's DDoS-related, or a customer just happened to have a sudden uptick in traffic. Being able to tell where that's coming from or where it's going to enables us to do things based on that. Prior to having Kentik we were totally blind to that level of detail.

We haven't seen anything else that comes even close to Kentik's real-time visibility across our network infrastructure, and we've demo'ed everything under the sun. We're fans.

We also use it to ingest metrics, log data at scale and business context information, for network analytics, primarily around traffic profitability analysis. For that purpose, it works pretty well. We're able to get traffic statistics, in an adjustable way, out of Kentik and then we marry them with our financials. Bing, bang, boom, we know what our traffic actually costs us.

What needs improvement?

Version 4 of the platform is good and going in the right direction. It's starting to answer questions before they're asked. The mindset to date has been, "Hey I've got a question. Let me go Kentik to get the answer." They're moving more in a direction where they are saying, "Hey, here's information that you may be interested in or may need," before the question has to explicitly be asked. Continuing to move in that direction would be a good thing.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using Kentik for about three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability has been great.

We get emails every now and again that say, "We're going to be doing something," or "We've got maintenance," or, "There was a five-minute outage." We've never been impacted by it.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Using it as a service, it scales indefinitely for our use purposes. That's why we did the as-a-service solution. Scaling is their problem. We didn't want to worry about it. From our vantage point, it scales to infinity.

All in, there are between 30 to 40 people who use it on a regular basis. We certainly have more users in the system than that, but there are 30 to 40 at a given time. They are mainly our engineering which includes the peering guys, myself and my team, and our core backbone guys who handle mostly long-haul stuff. Within our NOC for troubleshooting, there are a number of people who use it. And we've created some custom dashboards for our sales and sales engineering folks. Those dashboards make data easy for them to digest. They can go in via a nice, pretty portal. They type in a network they might be interested in and then all the data that they could possibly want, in an easily digestible format, is right in their faces.

We definitely have plans to increase usage. We'd like to get it into the hands of more of our salespeople. Only a small fraction of them are currently using it, mainly the guys in the carrier space. I'd love to get it into the hands of our enterprise people as well. But there are limitations on our side, including available cycles to get our guys up to speed on that kind of thing. The other thing we've also looked at doing is potentially opening it up to our customers and giving them a view into their traffic. We haven't gotten there yet, but those are things we've looked into and are looking into.

How are customer service and technical support?

Our interactions with their tech support are very good. Response times are generally measured in minutes, which is nice to see. You don't see that very often. They take ownership when we have issues. But it's usually more questions from our side than anything else. They're on it. They actually care, which you don't see very often in customer support areas.

When there is something missing, we are generally able to go to them and work with them on it. Within a reasonable amount of time, it's generally added. At the moment, we've got what we're looking for.

The last issue they helped us with was due to the fact that we do a lot of traffic engineering, especially as it relates to peering. Once we got Kentik we'd say, "Hey this peer is congested. Let's go take a look at what the source addresses are or the destination addresses are so that we can do some traffic engineering around that." They added in a mechanism that allows you to do that whole exercise with the click of one button, which made life for that specific path a whole lot easier.

We communicated that to our customer success rep.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We were using a homebrew solution previously, which was not NetFlow based; it was BTU-based, which was vendor-specific. We are, obviously, a multi-vendor shop, so it only gave us limited visibility.

We switched to have the ability to see much more than what we were seeing. Kentik was platform-independent. There was also the fact that compared to what they were offering, nothing else on the market had the same feature set. Kentik already had more, and that was three years ago. They have been innovators in the space and have continued to push on the available features since. And most important, for us, was the price point. It was highly competitively priced. It was a no-brainer.

We did look into the on-prem option. Within our group, we're just not set up to do that. We're not server guys. And the pricing on the as-a-service-solution was such that it still made sense to go that route for us.

How was the initial setup?

It took us about a day-and-a-half to fully deploy. It wasn't that big a deal.

We had to roll out the device-level config that would start exporting the data to Kentik, but that was incredibly straightforward. There was no impact to doing so. We automated that and were able to push it out to our entire network in about that day-and-a-half, and we were fully up and going without any kind of hitch.

On our side, it was just me who was involved. It was super-simple. I wrote a script, it deployed, and we were up and going.

And there is no overhead when it comes to maintenance.

What was our ROI?

It's hard to quantify ROI. How do you put the numbers around our use? Anecdotally, we definitely feel we're getting value from it. We are a fiscally conservative organization, and when we've renewed with Kentik it's never even been a question. It's, "Yes, we're renewing."

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Without speaking directly about numbers, it's about the cost of a cross-connect, per device per month. Of course, some people are paying $50 a month for cross-connect and some people paying $500 a month for cross-connect. With volume, etc., it's somewhere in between. But with a network of our size and scale, we've got the volume such that we're able to get pretty aggressive pricing on things that we consume.

There are no other costs in addition to the licensing fee for us. It's one-and-done.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We've checked out Arbor, SolarWinds; you name it, we've tried it. We've had some in-house-developed stuff that we tried for about a year. Kentik really blew everything out of the water.

Arbor had a lot of what we were looking for. The problem is that they quit innovating a decade ago, and their price is ridiculous. Arbor is also device-based. You have to stick a big, massive machine in your network and each of those only supports up to about five devices. We're in an environment where we have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of core devices. So that obviously wouldn't have scaled.

What other advice do I have?

Go for it. The other solutions out there just don't compare. It has definitely been worth it for us. Anytime anyone asks us, we definitely recommend it.

We were expecting to be able to see and understand more about our traffic. I don't think any of us thought we would rely on it as much as we now do.

We have looked into making use of Kentik's ability to overlay multiple datasets onto our existing data and it's something we are thinking about. We're just not there yet within our organization.

It gives us visibility into stuff going on in our network but I don't think it necessarily helps uptime. Where it could help uptime is for specific customers when it's DDoS-related. It helps us quickly determine what's going on with DDoS, where we couldn't have before. But for our network, as a whole, it just allows us to see what's going on. It doesn't do anything itself.

It doesn't improve on the number of attacks that we need to defend. The internet is a wild place. With a network of our scale, there is something under attack literally every minute of every day, every day of the year. What it does is allow us to see quickly — immediately — is what is actually going on, and then take actions around that.

I rate it a nine out of 10. We're happy with it.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Private Cloud
**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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