Services Push Toward Pure IP
Among the most powerful weapons are simplified IP (Internet protocol) networks and Web-based provisioning of bandwidth. This week, Telseon and 360networks Inc. (Nasdaq: TSIX; Toronto: TSX.TO) highlighted the trend by tying their networks together in order to offer customers "end to end IP." To sweeten the offer, they'll add a Web-based interface that allows customers to set up and change bandwidth increments online -- providing a kind of instant IP.
Trials will begin this year, starting in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York, where both Telseon and 360networks have POPs (points of presence). No date's been given for official rollout of the services.
Telseon's not the only provider developing an intercity IP network with Web provisioning. Yipes Communications Inc. says it's started to build out its own intercity network using services from Level 3 Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: LVLT), Savvis Communications (Nasdaq: SVVS), and Uunet. And spokespeople for Yipes say a Web-based configuration tool is in trials.
Yipes is a step behind Telseon in the respect that it doesn't yet offer Web-based configuration even for its local customers. But if Yipes can make it first to market with a browser configuration tool fit for use with its long-distance services, it could beat Telseon to some choice business and ISP contracts.
Talk of Web-based network configuration isn't new. Many service providers of all kinds, including providers of traditional leased lines, have touted their plans to offer some sort of Web-based configuration tool. But actual deliveries have been rare. Carriers typically cite security limitations as a key reason to hold off.
But today's Ethernet service providers are betting the bank on making their services easier to set up and change than traditional Sonet-based leased lines (see Metro Optical Ethernet). To do this, they're willing to tackle the security issue head on.
Telseon, for example, says it's developed a proprietary security system that uses specially designated IDs to ensure customers can't interfere with one another's setups. Telseon's biggest equipment provider, Riverstone Networks, has a Web-based tool that will be customized to work with the Telseon configuration program.
Other obstacles remain. Web-based configuration tools are heavy on the overhead, which can make them slow. Speeding them up can lead to compromises. Telseon says it offers its existing metro customers the choice of changing bandwidth according to specific, round-number increments on the Web. "People aren't going to by 47 or 82 Mbit/s of bandwidth, generally," says a spokesperson. "We've tried to create a menu of reasonable steps to keep management overhead down." Users can opt, for instance, to purchase bandwidth in increments of 5 or 10 Mbit/s -- from 1 Mbit/s to 1 Gbit/s.
Analysts agree that getting the kinks worked out will be worth it. Web provisioning could be the key to Ethernet metro services replacing Sonet connections.
"Web provisioning puts ASPs, ISPs, and end users in control of end-to-end services," says Jason Knowles, associate analyst at Current Analysis. The ability to provision bandwidth themselves, as opposed to struggling with Sonet, can be a major selling point, he says.
Others share this view. "With leased lines, as you outgrow one increment, say T1, it's a big step to move to the next," says David Passmore, research director of The Burton Group consultancy. "With services like [Telseon's], your browser causes the server to touch a switch and changes the service parameters. It's like configuring frame relay CIRs, only you're working with increments of 1 Mbit/s in IP networks."
-- Mary Jander, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com