Newbridge looks to guarantee connections

ATM switch vendor Newbridge Networks will launch a virtual private network (VPN) strategy this week that leverages the existing infrastructure of traditional service providers.

The company's Versatile-Internet Protocol architecture will set up secure, guaranteed connections across a service provider or enterprise network from access devices at the edge of a WAN, according to company officials.

Rather than use encryption and tunnelling over the Internet, as have most VPN vendors, Newbridge aims to use the connection-oriented model of ATM.

The result, observers say, could be simpler VPNs based on services such as frame relay that are familiar to traditional service providers and their customers.

To make this possible, Newbridge has introduced a hardware module, the Internetworking Services Module (ISM), that lets its 36170 ATM switch route IP traffic.

The device already can switch frame relay and other types of traffic using its ATM engine, according to Newbridge officials.

Newbridge's architecture consists of service points, where traffic enters the network; a switched routing infrastructure; and central, policy-based management.

Service points can request service attributes using the emerging Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) protocol or mechanisms that Newbridge is developing with its partners in the Carrier Scale Internetworking (CSI) alliance it formed last year with 3Com and Siemens.

Service attributes can be delivered across a mesh of ATM switches using quality-of-service (QOS) mechanisms built into ATM, as well as across a routed WAN core.

A handful of centralised policy servers will distribute rules for security and QOS to the service points. The servers will be able to manage a multivendor network, including billing, according to Newbridge officials.

Officials said because the company is using MPLS and the CSI specifications, any compliant device can serve as a service point.

The company and its partners in the CSI initiative soon will submit specifications to the ATM Forum standards body, according to Newbridge officials.

The mechanisms will take advantage of ATM QOS capabilities, officials said.

One analyst said Newbridge's strategy could broaden VPNs beyond the ISPs that are fitted with equipment for typical tunneled VPNs.

"They're providing a means to enable the traditional telcos to jump on the IP bandwagon," said John Morency, principal analyst at Renaissance Worldwide, in Massachusetts.

The company's installed base of ATM switches at those carriers gives it a foundation on which to build, Morency added.

With the help of Newbridge's model, service providers will be able to offer the benefits of VPNs with less complexity because they will not need to set up tunnels or maps between QOS systems, Morency added.

"You're using good-old IP across the backbone, so there's no need for tunnel configuration," Morency said.

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