Managed IP Services - The
Emerging WAN Networking Standard?
The merger of managed IP service
giants Netifice and MegaPath tell us something about where the
telecommunications industry is headed.
By: John Shepler
Two major players in Managed IP Services
joining forces is a telling indicator of change in the telecommunications
field, focused on IP services for business.
IP Growing From LAN to WAN
So why is this important? It's another sign that the communications
infrastructure is migrating from a circuit switched architecture
to packet based communications. Not just any packet switched
protocol, mind you. IP or Internet Protocol is expanding is scope.
Switched Ethernet based local area networks running Internet
Protocol have become the defacto standard, pretty much pushing
all other standards into obscurity. The sheer economy of scale
has made Ethernet, Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet networking
the only cost effective choice in all but the most unique applications.
It's pretty hard to find a computer that doesn't come with an
RJ-45 connector for 10/100 Ethernet. It's even harder to find
one with another standard, unless it is something with a very
short range, such as USB or Firewire. Now, IP is moving beyond
the LAN edge and steadily swallowing up the WAN or Wide Area
Network connections as well.
When Private Lines Make Sense
Consider your options for communicating beyond the borders of
your corporate campus or even your storefront. If all you want
to do is connect two distant locations together, a T1 line will
do the trick at a reasonable cost. This is point to point communications.
Chances are that you'll use a router on each end that connects
to your location's LAN on one side and the T1 line on the other.
But what if you want to connect a dozen or a hundred locations
together? You can certainly order as many T1 private lines as
you want and create your own WAN. That gives you the ultimate
in control, privacy and, unfortunately, high cost.
More Cost Effective Solutions to Link
A more reasonably priced solution leverages the power of private
networks built by companies like Netifice and MegaPath along
with that great public communications infrastructure known as
the Internet. The private networks, almost exclusively built
on fiber optics, link to points of presence in major cities.
Dedicated private lines provide the last mile connection to your
locations. ATM and Frame Relay networks have long provided this
type of service, but now most networks are adopting IP and their
The Internet is certainly the largest IP
network in existence. It is becoming thought of as a public utility,
much like electric power and natural gas. Except that the Internet
is loosely regulated compared to government regulated utilities.
Anyone can easily access the Internet at a bargain price, but
your privacy and security are left up to you. Frankly, the Internet
can be a scary place to be conveying sensitive business information.
The Value of Managed IP Services
This is where managed IP services step in. One important application
is the VPN or Virtual Private Network. Basically, a VPN encrypts
and decrypts your private information so that it appears to be
indecipherable gibberish to anyone eavesdropping over the Internet.
In essence, the public network becomes your private network.
Of course you are sharing this public network with many others,
but they don't know anything about your data and you don't know
anything about theirs. As long as you buy enough bandwidth to
ensure the transfer rates you need, VPN will give you one huge
network with access just about anywhere on Earth.
Another application for IP-based services
is enterprise VoIP. Voice over IP is potentially a huge cost
saver for businesses with dozens to hundreds of phones and phone
lines. It can go bad very easily when you try to be your own
phone company and don't provide for all the nuances of bandwidth,
jitter, latency, priority and packet error rates that wreak havoc
on voice calls and video conferencing. A managed IP network ensures
that the WAN network is robust enough to support VoIP as well
as electronic data transfer.
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