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VZB's Olive Branch to Branch Offices

Verizon Enterprise Solutions says it has the answer to one of corporate America's biggest services headaches: how to deliver a full set of IT, security, and communications services to the branch offices of enterprise users without busting corporate budgets.

Verizon Business (formerly MCI) says 70 percent of all enterprise IT resources are now consumed by branch offices, but it was previously too expensive to deliver the same breadth and depth of services found at company headquarters to outlying, local office staff.

But the service provider says it has solved that problem by adding new services to the Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) ISR routers it has deployed in its network. (See Cisco Touts ISR and Cisco Launches ISR Mini-Me.)

Due to the prohibitively high costs, many small branch offices in enterprises today do not enjoy any of the advanced managed services such as URL filtering, content delivery, firewalls, and other managed security services.

If you were to set up a branch office network with several different managed services, Verizon explains, you would need a router to manage each individual service. But the new features in the Cisco ISR give it the ability to manage multiple services all in a single chassis, which reduces the amount of equipment and the cost necessary to get a branch office up and running.

Verizon currently has about 55,000 of the ISRs deployed in its enterprise networks. "Up until now, we had been managing these as traditional routers," says Chip Freund, director of managed services product marketing for Verizon Business. "Now, we're adding five modules to the picture."

Those five modules are URL filtering, zone-based firewall, intrusion prevention service, content delivery, and Ethernet LAN. The ISRs managing these services will be located at the actual branch office locations and not remotely.

The Cisco ISR router has actually been available and in deployment for the past two years, but due to the complexity of the device and the expertise needed to manage it, it has mainly been used as a traditional router. [Ed. note: Now, there's a ringing endorsement.] Verizon says this is the first large scale project in which a carrier would be managing multiple services over the router.

"It takes time for the carrier to make sure that it has the technology working the way that it wants it to," says Mark Seery, an analyst with Ovum RHK Inc. "The ISR was built as a platform to develop new things over time, and that has taken some time to evolve and develop."

Verizon's target market for this new venture comprises the retail, restaurant, hospitality, and insurance industries. These types of companies tend to have many small branch office locations with many different computer terminals. They are also usually staffed by employees who aren't very tech savvy, making a managed network very useful to them.

— Raymond McConville, Reporter, Light Reading

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