WorldCom's VPN service gives users more control

By Tim Greene, Network World |  Networking

WorldCom Inc. is introducing a new managed VPN service that leaves control of VPN policies directly in the hands of users.

Under WorldCom IP VPN-Customer Directed, WorldCom sets up dedicated Internet links to its UUNET network, installs Cisco Systems Inc. VPN gear at the customer site and manages and maintains the equipment. The service is being announced at SuperComm 2001 this week.

To manage their own security policies, users tap into a Web-based policy-management tool that is supplied by SmartPipes Inc., a service-providers' service provider.

SmartPipes Policy Networking Service presents a graphical user interface that lets users set up VPN-specific policies without manually configuring each router involved or waiting for the service provider to configure the routers for them.

Users can set and change which sites can establish VPN tunnels with which other sites, limit access by time of day, set the level of encryption that should be used and other policies.

SmartPipes Policy Networking then turns these policies into management commands that configure the routers involved so they enforce the policies.

This automation reduces the time it takes to make policy changes and cuts the number of highly skilled network engineers needed to run the service. The alternatives would be for companies to manually configure the routers with internal IT staff or call in changes to a service provider and wait for them to make the manual configuration changes.

This new service broadens WorldCom's VPN offerings to include options from pretty much running your own VPN over WorldCom's network to turning the whole thing over to WorldCom, notes Dave Kosiur, an analyst with The Burton Group.

Other WorldCom VPN services are:

-- Remote Access Edition, a fully managed remote access VPN service.

-- Total Access Edition, a fully managed site-to-site as well as remote access VPNs.

-- Private IP Service, a network-based IP service enabling that ties into ATM and frame relay networks.

-- IP-VPN Select Access Edition, in which users buy Cisco VPN equipment and Internet access from WorldCom and run their own VPNs.

Currently, WorldCom IP VPN-Customer Directed comes with WorldCom's standard service-level agreement package for network availability and delay, but plans to offer VPN-specific SLAs by year-end. This will be based on new capabilities of the SmartPipes software that will be ready later this month, SmartPipes says.

Customers buying IP VPN-Customer Directed pay for Internet access and pay a separate, per-site, flat monthly fee for the SmartPipes add-on depending on the size of the router at each site. For example, the IP VPN-Customer Directed fee for a Cisco 1720 router is $530 per month. That would be in addition to the T-1 Internet access to the site that would cost an additional $1,795, WorldCom says.

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