RealTime IT News

AT&T Beefs Up VPN Services

In a move to beef up its virtual private network (VPN) services to corporate system administrators, AT&T officials announced Wednesday a new class of services and access plans.

AT&T, like many other data-via-packet carriers, is ramping up its service offerings in preparation for the rush by companies who want to include the next generation of data services to their intranet, which includes voice, data and video capabilities.

One of the biggest problems, for administrators, associated with the popularity of new products like streaming media and voice over IP (VOIP), is the amount of bandwidth gobbled up by these applications. And newer applications, which bundle voice and data, like videoconferencing, take up even more space on the bandwidth pipe.

For companies with smaller OC-3 connections, or even a host of T-1 lines connecting their local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN) together, the addition of bandwidth-intensive products can bring operations to a grinding halt. It's a question of either buying more bandwidth finding a less expensive alternative. As many administrators know, that answer is usually the latter.

According to a recent report by Mark Kirstein, an analyst at research firm Cahner's Instat, more and more businesses will be looking for options to improve what he calls 'dynamic management.'

"This new approach is leading to a customer-centric information management process that integrates and correlates performance across a range of diverse applications, systems and networks," Kirstein said. "The consolidation and management functions simplifies and lowers the operational costs associated with network management."

To accomplish this, AT&T has come up with a scaled method of prioritizing traffic sent over the network high priority, low priority and best effort. With it, AT&T promises a scalable service that lets administrators determine which applications are more important.

The service, available only to AT&T collocation customers at its 18 Internet data centers (IDCs), is available immediately. It also comes with added access capabilities not previously available to tech staffs before, like remote access and connecting the VPN to a public Web site.

Robin Young, AT&T Business senior vice president of managed services, said the access and service enhancements make AT&T a more compelling choice for future LAN/WAN deployments.

"AT&T continues to design, implement and manage the application networking building blocks that businesses need to succeed," Young said. "We apply our strengths in networking so that our customers can apply their strengths to successfully run their businesses."

Now, the company that wants to put more emphasis on its videoconferencing without buying another 1Mbps of bandwidth to accomplish that can just assign a higher priority to all video functions. This comes at the expense of other functions, like Web surfing, which will have to take the back seat while the videoconference is in progress.

This doesn't mean that other workers won't be able to browse the Internet or send emails, it only puts a higher priority on data packets tagged with a videoconferencing identifier. Of course, system administrators are free to set their own priority system.

Driving that service is AT&Ts new metropolitan and public Internet Ethernet services, which give companies with offices scattered throughout a city connection speeds to each other and to to the Internet at speeds up to 1 GBps.

Nick Maynard, senior analyst for the Yankee Group, said Ethernet services are quickly growing in popularity with businesses today.

"Enterprises are looking for Ethernet services into VPNs that offer them reach, scalability and flexibility," Maynard said. "Offering an array of Ethernet services that leverages the existing fiber footprint for the WAN, LAN and Internet translates into faster provisioning times, lower costs and fewer network hassles for today's businesses."

The metropolitan service is for companies connected to each other with metropolitan area networks (MANs). In final testing stages right now, with expected general availability in the first quarter of 2002, will give Internet service providers (ISPs) and application service providers (ASPs) tiered metro-area Ethernet speeds of 50Mbps, 150Mbps, 300Mbps and 600Mbps.

For corporations and other IDCs, the public Internet Ethernet service is available today in New York and San Francisco, and will expand to nine cities by year's end. Access is available in speeds of 10Mbps, 100Mbps and 1Gbps.