December 20, 2000, 1:47 PM — The AT&T-backed international venture Concert has launched a service that almost - but not quite - amounts to a global IP virtual private network (VPN).
At the recent Telecom 99 show in Geneva, Concert introduced Concert Managed IP. The service provides VPN-like any-to-any capability to send IP traffic between any two enterprise network sites but without a public Internet component for outside users to log on to the network.
Concert Managed IP employs Cisco's implementation of Multi-protocol Label Switching in its core routers. That way, Concert can provide three service classes between any two network sites -- the highest for latency sensitive traffic, the middle one for important data transmissions and the lowest one for store-and-forward applications -- without requiring private lines or fast-packet-style pre-provisioned virtual circuits.
But unlike a full VPN implementation, there is no tunneling or encryption all the way to the user site or desktop. Instead, users have to purchase a dedicated frame relay user-to-network interface, says Alex Pinnell, European marketing manager for Concert IP services.
As a result, each site on the network must maintain a Concert-managed Cisco router. Public Internet gateways and additional VPN security capabilities for purely remote users will be added to the offer next spring, Pinnell says.
Service availability also falls into the "not quite" category. Concert is going through a transition from its original form -- a joint venture between MCI and British Telecommunications, now wholly owned by BT -- to a full-fledged stand-alone carrier half-owned by AT&T and BT each.
The "old" Concert continues to sell traditional voice, data and Internet access services. The "new" AT&T-backed Concert -- which needs one more regulatory approval, from the Federal Communications Commission -- will include VPN-like services like Managed IP but cannot start until the FCC gives the nod.
Concert officials declined to give price and service-level agreement details until Managed IP comes onto the market.