WorldCom VPN service gives users more control

WorldCom, which already offers fully managed VPN services, this week launched a VPN service package that puts the management back in users' hands.

The WorldCom IP VPN Select Access Edition service includes dedicated UUNET Internet access, Cisco Systems Inc. routers and Cisco policy management software, which can be used to set, enforce and monitor security policies from one site.

"Select Access is for customers that don't want a fully managed, outsourced solution. It's a bundle where customers buy network access, hardware and the tools to provision and manage their own VPN," says Janel Crabtree, WorldCom's director of global IP VPN services.

WorldCom's other VPN offerings include the fully managed IP VPN Total Access and IP VPN Remote Access services, which use dedicated and dial-up Internet access connections, respectively. These services, as well as WorldCom's new Select Access Edition, all support IP Security tunneling and triple digital encryption standard (Triple-DES) 128-bit encryption.

Depending on which analyst you talk to, WorldCom or AT&T Corp. is the VPN services market leader, followed by the likes of Genuity Inc., Sprint Corp., Savvis Communications, XO Communications Inc. and Broadwing Inc.

"WorldCom has done a nice job offering a broad range of VPN services," says Jim Slaby an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. This latest offering is best-suited for small and midsize companies or large companies that have "modest site requirements," he says.

Cisco's policy management platform can support up to 500 devices, though Slaby says Cisco's routers don't scale well for handling VPN traffic.

"The platform supports 20 to 30 tunnels well, but anything above that is too burdensome," he says. "Triple-DES can slam a Cisco router if it is supporting many tunnels."

For some users, support for 20 to 30 tunnels for a site-to-site VPN is more than enough. But why should users go to WorldCom for products they can buy directly from Cisco and dedicated Internet access they can buy from any number of providers? What WorldCom offers that users cannot easily get on their own is initial VPN integration and stronger buying power with Cisco, Crabtree says.

This is the first of three VPN services from WorldCom that features Cisco gear. In June or July WorldCom will launch a VPN service managed by SmartPipes (www.nwfusion.com, DocFinder: 4336) that uses Cisco routers and Windows to set, monitor and maintain security policies. Toward the end of the year, WorldCom expects to offer users the option of Cisco gear with its fully managed IP VPN Total Access service. Today, Lucent Access Point gear is the only choice.

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