N+I - Networld/Interop focus is bandwidth

Network managers gathering at the Networld/Interop 2000 expo in Las Vegas next week will be looking for ways to meet the bandwidth demand brought on by the surge in e-commerce, as vendors promise smarter and faster switching and more reliable routing.

Steve Brown, director of network services at Providian Financial in San Francisco, said he's interested in intelligent call routing using voice over IP to ensure that customers are routed to the right person in Providian's call centres. Voice over IP allows voice traffic to be sent over IP networks designed to carry data.

"We've been talking to Cisco about their IP phone products," Brown said. "It looks like convergence [of voice and data] is getting off the pages of the newspaper and into the enterprise."

San Jose-based Cisco Systems plans to demonstrate its Avid voice over IP telephone system at the show. And Murray Hill, New Jersey-based Lucent Technologies will be there with what one observer described as a "cool e-biz demo" that simulates a working customer service centre.

But convergence, and even more network traffic, brings new challenges in network load management and content prioritisation. Quality-of-service capability is one possible answer because it allows network managers to steer the most important data along the least crowded data paths.

Analyst Stan Schatt at Giga Information Group said a new breed of quality-of-service programmable network appliances (single-purpose computers) are coming to the rescue. And although Cisco and others will likely promote similar technologies, Schatt noted that the newest such devices will come from Sitera in Longmont, Colorado, and LightSpeed Semiconductor.

Schatt said Gigabit Ethernet over metropolitan-area networks (MAN) would also be a big topic. Extreme Networks will show its new Alpine line of carrier-class switches that use optical Gigabit Ethernet to connect buildings in campus or urban settings. Using Ethernet, the transport standard for most corporate LANs, the switches will make connections to the MAN seamless. A fully equipped Extreme Alpine 3808 switch for 4G bit/sec. fiber optic ports and 32 Ethernet ports costs more than $30,000.

Attendees will also be able talk to communications service providers. Cincinnati-based Broadwing said it would present its virtual private network services as well as plans for eight new data centers. Global Crossing, a worldwide Internet backbone provider, said it would highlight its business video- and audioconferencing services.

Telecommunications carriers will have a sizable presence, according to Networld/Interop Vice President and General Manager Valerie Williamson. Sprint said it would announce unspecified enhancements to ION, its all-in-one system aimed at allowing businesses to integrate voice, video and data over a single network. On the heels of its recent partnering announcement with Cisco, SBC Communications said it would detail its systems integrator services.

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