ComNet: Telcos Add Self-Serve Management

FRAMINGHAM (01/28/2000) - Winter storms that interfered with ComNet 2000 attendance in Washington didn't stop big telecommunications companies from announcing services that signal their movement into areas that seem more like managed services and systems integration than typical telecommunications services.

MCI WorldCom Inc. introduced services that will allow data customers to self-manage bandwidth on Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) systems and private lines from inside the enterprise, using a browser.

MCI WorldCom said subscribers will be able to dynamically manipulate and allocate bandwidth over ATM lines, and bring up and take down private lines from an in-house console. This will allow customers to get what they need when they need it, foregoing the cost of lines that are always live, the company said.

Analyst Tom Jenkins at Telechoice Inc. in Boston said the option is lucrative because businesses won't have to request changes, wait days for them to be made and then pay for the labor. But he added that network managers will have to determine how much optimization is necessary, because hiring staff to manage it would cut into potential savings.

MCI WorldCom also rolled out a service for centralized control of geographically dispersed corporate call centers. The system is based on intelligent call management software from San Jose-based Cisco Systems Inc., MCI WorldCom said. Implementation also includes deployment of Cisco's network application manager software.

J.C. Penney Co. in Plano, Texas, uses the Cisco intelligent call management package for its direct marketing operation, said Jeff Camp, vice president of customer service. "We're using its routing capabilities to balance the load across our three call centers and to match up callers with the best answering resource," Camp said.

Not wanting to be left behind, AT&T Corp. rolled out a line of services at ComNet that will enable application service providers (ASP) to deliver network-based applications.

The program, called Ecosystem for ASPs, offers hosted applications residing in AT&T's network. AT&T is pumping $250 million into its infrastructure for the program. Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corp., Cisco, IBM, Novell Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. are some of the vendors that will provide storage systems and network-enabling and testing tools.

Jenkins said providers like AT&T are interested in the application service provider market because it gives them valuable knowledge of a customer's business as well as the promise of direct income.

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