Appian Relies on Ethernet to Connect Providers

SAN MATEO (04/10/2000) - Appian Communications Inc. this week will introduce a hardware platform that leverages Ethernet to bring the plentiful bandwidth of optical networks to enterprises, eclipsing the last-mile bottleneck that has plagued this connectivity.

Appian's Optical Services Activation Platform (OSAP) 4800 can be deployed at customer premise locations. Appian's approach taps into Ethernet at speeds from 10Mbps to as fast as 10Gbps. OSAP 4800 is capable of routing multiple traffic types over the same loop, delivering to separate ATM, frame-relay, IP, and TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) networks, according to officials at Appian.

Appian's offering uses distributed packet switching to let providers offer guaranteed bandwidth from 64Kbps to as fast as 10Gbps and change that level of bandwidth on demand, Appian officials said. This capability of turning bandwidth up or down on demand can help reduce the long service-activation cycles that burden carriers and let them offer new types of services to end-users.

Stan George, former vice president of services at a competitive local exchange carrier, in Staten Island, N.Y., agreed.

"One thing I liked was the ability to provide a higher rate of Internet access, higher than T1, in an elegant way," George said. "If you want to provide [speeds] higher than T1, carriers today have to allocate [DS3-level] bandwidth.

With the Appian solutions, the carriers can just use the right amount of bandwidth that their customers need. That allows us to better utilize the last mile."

At the root of the traffic jam between optical carrier networks and private enterprise networks is TDM. TDM links are inflexible and steep incremental growth pricing can make it expensive for users to scale up. According to analysts, this rigid feed into the local loop has kept business users from the full benefits of surging bandwidth.

"The options for most enterprises today to get services into their site is severely limited," said Chris Nicoll, director of infrastructure analysis at Current Analysis, in Sterling, Va. "You usually have three options: 56Kbps, T1, or T3 lines. This gives you an order of magnitude of differences in cost but doesn't really give you scalability within those definitions."

"Most enterprises are sitting on an Ethernet. Ethernet is the universal language in enterprises and being able to pull directly from an Ethernet connection simplifies how businesses need to connect to the network, and it also serves to reduce the cost," Nicoll said.

"If you can tie into an enterprise network with more of a native Ethernet-type interface, [carriers] can expand their target market because every enterprise is running Ethernet in their offices," Nicoll added. "And you can offer more direct data services or hosted application services without getting the performance problems you usually run into when you run 10Mbps Ethernet into a 1.5Mbps T1 pipe."

"If Appian is successful, they should be able to open up to enterprises of all sizes a wide range of telecommunications services, like voice, video, data, and do it so that you can scale not only the performance but also the cost," Nicoll said.

The company is also announcing Appian Vista Services and Element Manager software, which lets service providers roll out and configure new services and monitor those services via a Web interface.

The OSAP 4800 will be available for trials in June, priced starting at $25,000.

Appian Communications Inc., in Boxborough, Mass., is at www.appiancom.com.

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