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WorldCom Improves VPN Services with Cisco's Help

Telecommunications giant WorldCom Tuesday spruced up its Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network (IP VPN) services with the release of a new edition based on networking titan Cisco Systems Inc.'s technology.

Forget about hosted services and outsourcing -- the WorldCom IP VPN Select Access Edition is tailored to take firms looking to make bucks out of the equation. A kind of do-it-yourself network suite, the Access Edition allows technical supporters to design and manage their own IP VPN according to their preferences.

The new solution enables a company to design, manage, monitor and upgrade its VPN solution as it deems necessary. In addition to connectivity to the WorldCom global IP network (including the local loop), Select Access allows customers to use Cisco's Secure Policy Manager to define, distribute, enforce and audit network-wide security policies from a centralized location; upgrades to Cisco IOS; and access to Cisco's SMARTnet.

How crucial is an IP-based VPN? While IDC presumes the U.S.-based carrier IP VPN market will grow from $1.28 billion in 2000 to $10 billion in 2005, a more recent study by Yankee Group published Monday that this sector will explode for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

This is because SMBs use IP VPNs as a remote access solution to connect business travelers, mobile workers, and telecommuters to their corporate local area network (LAN), or as a LAN-to-LAN intranet connecting multiple offices. According to a Yankee Group survey, eight percent of very small (2 to 19 employee), 16 percent of small (20 to 99 employee), and 19 percent of medium (100 to 499 employee) businesses with Internet connections and multiple offices use VPNs today.

The benefits of an IP VPN become even more salient as the number of remote workers who need to access networks from afar are no doubt affected by this.

"While IP VPNs offer an excellent wide-area connectivity solution to SMBs with multiple sites, it is the remote access application that is driving the SMB VPN market today," Yankee Group analyst J. P. Gownder said. "Since 80% of very small, 59% of small, and 45% of medium-sized businesses only have one office location, managed VPN services targeting SMBs are touting the clear cost and productivity benefits of remote access from any Internet access point. For many workers, being able to access the corporate LAN from any location has become essential, and employing a managed VPN replaces variable long-distance dial-up charges and expensive IT staff time with a fixed monthly management fee."

Gownder noted that this is still a nascent business and may not see maturation for the next two years.

In WorldCom's case, the telco will start with the do-it-yourself Access Edition that will be initially available to U.S.-based companies that require domestic or global deployment to any of 28 countries throughout Europe and Asia Pacific.

Eventually, WorldCom plans to introduce a fully managed version of this product. It will let enterprises outsource management of their IP VPN solution to WorldCom.