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Optical/IP

VPI Blossoms at Bell Canada

Design software maker VPIsystems Inc. announced today it has scored another round of orders from Bell Canada, Canada's largest service provider (see VPI Gets 'Multiple Orders'). The deal, which includes VPI's VPItransportMaker package, is emblematic of a trend across North America: Carriers are being more careful about adding network capacity on a whim -- even when new services are involved.

With capital expenditures so tightly controlled, network planners need to take a fresh look at their transport networks to see if anything can change or if the carrier needs to add new capacity to satisfy customer demand, according to VPI CEO John Holobinko. "Carriers don't have to overbuild anymore," he says.

In Bell Canada's case, VPI says it was given a portion of its network to prove itself -- and it did. The software maker built a model of Bell Canada's existing network to show how it could reallocate traffic on some routes to provide additional capacity, and where new Sonet transport and WDM equipment could be added.

Holobinko says that traditional OSS packages, with their tendency to put network traffic on the shortest routes, fail over time because they don’t adjust the plan after several network elements are added. This causes some network links to be filled to capacity, while others practically sit idle, he says, and that leads to overbuilding.

"OSS is like looking in a rear view mirror," he says. "You get past where you're going and you say, 'Damn, I needed to turn back there.'"

By using algorithms that consider several moving targets at once -- service level agreements, traffic density, network resources, etc. -- VPI says its software can help carriers such as Bell Canada add new capacity only where they need it most.

Others claim that capacity planning such as this can only deliver limited benefits in packet-based networks because the usual way of measuring traffic flows -- routers taking samples every five minutes -- is fundamentally flawed. It can't address questions such as "how much bandwidth do I need in order to provide a certain level of quality of service" according to Corvil Ltd., a company developing ways of tackling this issue (see Corvil: Another Cisco Secret?).

VPI's biggest competition is from the carriers themselves, Holobinko says, as each one has its own home-grown tools to do network modeling and planning.

Other competitors to VPI in the network design space include RSoft Design Group Inc. and Opnet Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: OPNT). (See OpNet's Filling Its Dance Card.)

VPI sells to carriers, but also equipment makers, too. Its customers include BellSouth Corp., British Telecom, Siemens AG, Cisco Systems Inc., Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., and Fujitsu Network Communications Inc.

The company was founded in 1997 as VPI Virtual Photonics, but changed its name in 2001 as it went from focusing on optical networking equipment design tools to network planning and forecasting software (see VPI Moves Into Systems and VPI Tweaks Its Name).

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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