MCI WorldCom details frame-relay backup

Rebounding from the massive August outage that interrupted service to 3000 frame-relay customers, MCI WorldCom announced last week it would deliver a frame-relay backup service and change its infrastructure development strategy to handle more traffic.

The company avoided directly attributing either of these actions to the 10 days of outage that affected an estimated 70,000 users and darkened the boards at the Chicago Board of Trade. However, it said problems that triggered the frame-relay failure - specifically, a software upgrade designed to enhance its frame-relay system for future growth - was a catalyst for some of the announcements.

The backup service, according to MCI WorldCom, will let frame-relay customers replicate the services they currently receive through their primary frame network via MCI WorldCom's other frame network. The company employs two major frame-relay systems, one from Nortel Networks and the other from Lucent Technologies Inc. should one network experience an outage and the other would pick up the traffic.

The Lucent-based network is the one MCI WorldCom blamed for the outage. It provides services to 30 percent of MCI WorldCom's frame-relay customers, said analyst Brownlee Thomas at Giga Information Group.

The Nortel frame system handles 65 per cent and the remainder are on three frame-relay systems left over from earlier acquisitions, Thomas explained.

MCI WorldCom said replication on the backup network, which essentially is a duplicate of users' primary relay system, would cost extra. But the cost of redundancy would be one-third less than having a redundant system. MCI WorldCom didn't say how much it was spending to add the capability.

The company also announced that it would build a new frame-relay network in the first half of next year using Lucent's latest frame technology. The network will parallel the existing Lucent-based system that suffered the outage and was designed to provide the added capacity that MCI WorldCom will require for growth.

Eventually, the two Lucent frames will be integrated, probably in the third quarter of next year, the company said.

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