AT&T pushes into LAN management

By David Rohde, Network World |  Business

BASKING RIDGE, N.J. -- AT&T is fulfilling a promise it made last year to begin managing LANs as well as WANs. In the process, the carrier is winning outsourcing contracts at a more rapid pace than its rivals.

The latest win for the telecom giant's AT&T Solutions managed-network unit is AlliedSignal, which last month awarded AT&T Solutions a $400 million-plus contract for most of its network architecture.

Under the contract, AT&T will manage not only AlliedSignal's routers, but also its LAN hubs and switches using the Global Enterprise Management System (GEMS), a collection of off-the-shelf and proprietary management tools installed in AT&T's customer support centers.

With Version 6.0 of GEMS, AT&T began incorporating tools such as Microsoft's Systems Management Server (SMS) and Novell's ManageWise to bore down to the server level in outsourced networks.

In AlliedSignal's case, AT&T is tacking on other new capabilities, such as the local business telephone service it began providing after taking over competitive local exchange carrier Teleport last year.

AT&T Solutions president Rick Roscitt emphasizes that in these contracts, AT&T is not simply performing fault management for client companies. Rather, using the GEMS package, AT&T technicians set thresholds for CPU utilization and other network-element factors and can flag performance over a period of days to try to prevent network degradation before it happens.

GEMS is not a package that AT&T ordinarily offers directly to customers, and its capabilities are generally limited to users who sign large network management contracts. But analysts do credit AT&T Solutions with building momentum while rival carriers revamp their outsourcing strategies -- such as MCI WorldCom transferring its Systemhouse unit to EDS.

"We're winning most of the large engagements," Roscitt says, pointing to other recent wins with Citibank, Bank One, McGraw-Hill and United HealthCare.

Ironically, one of the things that is less settled with the AlliedSignal contract may be on the WAN side, AT&T's traditional area of expertise.

AT&T will begin by managing AlliedSignal's frame relay and private-line networks spanning 400 sites in 19 countries, but during the course of the contract, the company will consider a more IP-centric architecture. According to Roscitt, AT&T and AlliedSignal have yet to decide whether to run IP applications over a high-speed ATM network, or move directly to an IP-over-SONET infrastructure.

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