Routing technology makes a move on frame relay

By James Cope, Computerworld |  Networking

While frame relay may be one of the most widely accepted ways of linking geographically dispersed corporate sites, MultiProtocol Label Switching (MPLS), a no-nonsense high-speed routing protocol, may be a technology whose time has come, thanks to better quality of service and lower implementation costs.

MPLS is an Internet Engineering Task Force specification that enables routers at the edge of networks to read special tags on Internet protocol packets. That bypasses destination lookup in routers at the core of the network which, according to industry officials, helps speed routing and affords quality of service at levels that can support a wide variety of network traffic, including video.

A major proponent of MPLS for worldwide wide-area network connections is Global One. At this week's Networld+Interop conference, the telecommunications services provider announced it had just flipped the switch on a new data center in Reston, Va., and said it would aggressively market its virtual private network (VPN) over MPLS service to corporate customers throughout North America.

Andi Wethli, CIO at Switzerland-based abrasives manufacturer Sia Abrasives Holding AG, said his company had chosen Global One's MPLS VPN service to connect company sites in 10 countries.

According to at least one analyst, Jim Slaby at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., quality of service in MPLS networks is superior to frame relay.

Wethli said he hired a consulting firm to recommend a list of service providers. "They came back with three or four possibilities," he said. Wethli then selected the Global One system after "getting more of the details face-to-face."

Wethli's selection criteria included global access to the carrier's network, VPN services and a single network that could handle voice and data. Wethli said his company is running enterprise resource planning applications, some legacy production systems, company e-mail and voice telephone traffic over the network.

Slaby said he expects to see a "wave of deployment" for MPLS-based networks during the next two to three years. That's because MPLS is cheaper than frame relay for service providers to set up, manage and maintain and can cost companies 10% less to install and run than frame services, he said. WorldCom Inc. is also going in that direction, Slaby added.

Global One's main service offering is still frame relay, noted Executive Vice President Detlef Spang. Still, he expects more of his company's existing corporate customers to migrate to MPLS VPNs.

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