Can SBC Spark Interest in QOS?
SBC Communications Inc. announced yesterday that it has joined forces with Sitara Networks Inc. to offer a new quality-of-service solution to its enterprise customers (see SBC Delivers QOS Control).
You heard right: That's QOS, the technology that flared up in the late nineties, then fizzled, as many companies decided it was easier to just add bandwidth to their networks than to regulate it by application.
Now, companies facing reduced capital budgets and bandwidth-intensive applications may be ready to reconsider QOS as a means of squeezing more out of their existing broadband infrastructures.
At least, that's what SBC is counting on. The carrier hasn’t started marketing its enterprise QOS service yet, but Rick King, the company’s executive director for professional and managed services, says a handful of the company’s existing customers have voiced interest in the solution.
While it will be another six to eight weeks before SBC's sales team is ready to push it, King says the technology, which is available now, has been lab-tested and SBC will be “showering attention on the first" deployments.
Here's the plan: When a customer signs up for the service, SBC will first monitor its traffic for two to four weeks, before categorizing the customer applications in three priority buckets: business critical, business important, and best effort. Then it will allocate bandwidth, guaranteeing enough for the business critical applications at all times.
All the customer's traffic will be filtered through Sitara's traffic-shaping and allocation hardware appliances, which SBC will deploy between the WAN router and the LAN equipment on the customer premises. SBC personnel will manage the boxes through the carrier's Application Performance Management (APM) platform. By analyzing the traffic flowing through the Sitara box, SBC will be able to determine how much bandwidth each application uses, and thus set policies to allocate the necessary amount of bandwidth to each application. APM is interoperable with Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS).
SBC's using five different off-the-shelf Sitara devices, called QoSWorks boxes, for customer deployments. Each box supports speeds from 384 kbit/s to 100 Mbit/s. According to King, SBC will check bandwidth policies monthly to keep them updated with each customer.
Reaction to the news has been mixed. The rollout certainly represents a big win for Sitara, which says it beat about six other solution providers to the chase, acknowledging it's had no previous contracts with U.S. service providers. A spokesman says Sitara's in talks and trials with other American carriers.
It's still a question whether the announcement will prove significant for either SBC or for QOS.
SBC of course, says it's important. King points out that SBC is the first carrier to offer a QOS solution at the customer premises, which allows filtering by application. Until now, QOS services have centered on using MPLS to guarantee bandwidth to locations, not specific applications.
But at least one analyst says CPE-based QOS solutions may not be long for this world. “Ultimately, the enterprise just wants the service it’s paying for to be reliable,” says analyst Mike Harris of Gartner Inc. He says a solution like SBC's adds complexity to a network. Enterprise users have moved on, he maintains, and they don't want to deal with the headache of having to make sure they have enough bandwidth for key applications. And he thinks service providers will have to start shouldering the burden of controlling QOS from their own facilities, not their customers'.
Harris also wonders where SBC's users are for the new service. “I’m surprised they didn’t have any beta customers,” he says. “But they clearly had a fully fleshed out pricing scheme… The service is well thought out.”
— Eugénie Larson, Reporter, Light Reading