RICHARDSON, TEXAS (05/04/2000) - Whoever said legacy carriers are beholden to legacy vendors in their infrastructures hasn't been to MCI WorldCom Inc.'s Broadband Data Engineering lab in Richardson.
In the lab, MCI WorldCom is testing no fewer than four startup vendors' ATM-based integrated access devices (IAD) for inclusion in the carrier's next-generation Smart Bandwidth suite of services.
Smart Bandwidth, unveiled in January, offers network managers not only a convergence service with data and voice riding over the same WAN, but also the ability to self-provision circuits and options.
For example, via a Web management interface, users will be able to vary the amount of reserved bandwidth on each circuit up to the capacity of the physical port on the edge of MCI WorldCom's ATM network.
They will also be able to alter the ATM quality of service and so-called "user permissions." That refers to the ability, for example, to allow certain employees to make certain types of phone calls over the network - in an effort to emulate a common feature in widely deployed circuit-switched voice virtual private networks.
But because Smart Bandwidth will be based on the latest generation of IADs, which typically interleave voice and data into ATM traffic streams, engineers in the lab have to test more than just the ability of the equipment to handle these features. They must also test interoperability among the IAD choices.
MCI WorldCom recently added IADs from Sonoma Systems and Vina Technologies to the testing routines in the Richardson lab, after originally demonstrating the service at the ComNet 2000 Show with boxes from Accelerated Networks and Mariposa Technologies.
Smart Bandwidth is based on MCI WorldCom's ability to provision ATM switched virtual circuits (SVC), which eliminate the need for corporate network administrators to preprovision point-to-point connections on the enterprise network - even between branch offices - and pay for them monthly even if they are used infrequently.
Terry Caterisano, executive staff engineer at the lab, says MCI WorldCom technicians in particular are testing the ability of all the vendors' equipment to send intracompany phone calls over SVCs using ATM's adaptation layer AAL-1 - plus the ability to dial outside the company via adaptation layer AAL-2.
Caterisano also says MCI WorldCom wants to assess the scalability of the various vendors' IADs, to see how many of them can communicate over the ATM network. So far, all Smart Bandwidth traffic must pass through one of four Smart Bandwidth "supersites," or specialized points of presence in the MCI WorldCom network. Company officials say they will be adding four supersites in Europe as well.
At the lab, MCI WorldCom is also building and testing a special Smart Bandwidth overlay on the carrier's Interact Web-based management system. Interact provides access into the carrier's service management tools, including order entry, billing and traffic reporting.