WorldCom, AT&T roll out hosted services

WorldCom Inc. and AT&T Corp. this week rolled out new hosted services in another sign of the times as telecommunications companies attempt to shed their carrier images and become ISPs (Internet service providers).

In the case of Clinton, Mississippi-based WorldCom, it has partnered with Laurel, Maryland-based Digex Inc. to aim their new Managed Express Hosting service squarely at small to midsize enterprises.

"We have taken our high-end data hosting services and engineered them for smaller companies and for departments within large companies," said Ron McMurtrie, vice president of WorldCom Global e-services.

The offering marks the first time that Digex and WorldCom have co-developed a service offering, said Martha Gilbertson, vice president of product management for Digex.

"We wanted to find a way to offer a lower price point of entry for customers on the same infrastructure as our high-end customers use," Gilbertson said.

The companies were able to do this, she said, by using vanilla versions of core components, such as databases from Oracle and Microsoft. Monitoring and backups are also scaled back.

"We don't retain backed up data for quite as long," Gilbertson said. "And we will only do basic SNMP, ping monitoring. Customers can buy additional monitoring services if they want them," Gilbertson said.

WorldCom owns 55 percent of Digex, and McMurtrie said the joint effort would leverage WordlCom's sales force and Digex's application hosting expertise.

AT&T also rolled out new services with attractive entry-level pricing. One of those is hosted, high-availability data storage. "We entered this business building on site solutions for large clients," said Paul Digiacomo, director of AT&T SAN Storage Services. "Now we are making it available in at our 18 data centers," he said.

Customers will have three storage options: fibre channel SAN (storage area network), IP (Internet Protocol) -based NAS (network attached storage), and remote mirror copy. "List pricing for this service starts at US$5,000 per month," Digiacomo said.

In addition, AT&T is beefing up its VPN services. "What is new is our site-to-site dedicated VPN," said Lou Detroia, director of global IP services at AT&T. "Customers can do this over the public Internet, but we prefer to keep them on our layer 3 backbone."

The service is based on IPsec and secure tunneling technology. Pricing is based on the number of concurrent tunnels and starts at $600 per month.

Dave Cottingham, product director of managed security services at AT&T, said the company has a new network scanning service. "This is an automated tool to scan our customers' public-facing, registered IP addresses for vulnerabilities," Cottingham said. The service is designed for bundling with other AT&T managed security products. Prices start at $1,350 per quarter.

Finally, AT&T has unveiled a new load-balancing service. "We can split a customer's data center operations between two locations," said Sant Srinivasan, director of AT&T Hosting Services. He said customers can buy the service according to the degree of redundancy desired.

Melanie Posey, an analyst at IDC, in Framingham, Massachusetts, commented that hosting vendors have suddenly rediscovered the midmarket.

"Last year, to hear the telcos talk, the only customers who mattered were the large multinationals," Posey said. "Now with the new economic order, those smaller $1,500-per-month accounts start to look pretty darn good."

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