Computerworld

WorldCom improves dial-up IP services

WorldCom Inc. announced Wednesday a series of enhancements to its Internet Dial Corporate and IP VPN Remote Services that would offer users more predictable performance and expanded geographic reach.

The carrier unveiled client and management software, expanded global coverage and promised stronger performance guarantees for its dial-up IP users.

WorldCom's new Access Manager client software allows dial-up, DSL, ISDN or cable modem remote users to connect to WorldCom's IP network using a single unified interface. The carrier says it will add very small aperture terminal (VSAT) and wireless network support to the same client software by year-end.

Later this year WorldCom also plans increase security for its remote users by adding a personal firewall to Access Manager. "We held a bake-off and chose one product, but we're not ready to announce which vendor's product it is at this time," says Ralph Montfort, director of remote services at WorldCom.

Access Manager is also integrated with WorldCom's new Internet Dial Analysis tool based on Visual Networks software. The tool allows network managers to gather performance and usage information on each of their remote users. It is available to customers for an additional fee of about 5 percent above WorldCom's standard service rate, Montfort says. The Internet Dial Analysis software gathers information such as connection speeds, numbers dialed, and length of Internet calls.

Network administrators can use this information to better plan for and even reduce remote access costs, says Brownlee Thomas, an analyst at consulting firm Giga Information Group.

The carrier has also expanded its global dial-in support for its Internet Dial Corporate and IP VPN Remote Services customers to 84 countries around the globe. Internet Dial customers can also dial in from China, but WorldCom is not able to support its IP VPN customers in China because of encryption technology restrictions in that country.

"WorldCom has on-net dial (points of presence) in 42 countries. The remaining 43 countries are reached through GRIC Communications' network," Thomas says.

WorldCom teams with GRIC to offer users local Internet dial-in support in areas where it does not have its own POPs.

"These are significant enhancements because they increase the global reach for customers and offer network administrators better control over their remote users," Thomas says.

The carrier also announced Enterprise Services Manager, which allows network administrators to set up individual user and group policies for remote workers. For example, administrators can block costly toll-free access numbers for groups of users or for all users. The Enterprise Services Manager, which WorldCom developed in-house, also allows administrators to set up timers that disconnect users after a certain number of minutes of inactivity. These policies can also be changed on the fly.

WorldCom beefed up its service-level agreements (SLA) with stronger minimum latency and packet delivery guarantees. Previously, WorldCom guaranteed that latency would not exceed 65 milliseconds in the U.S. and Europe. The carrier upgraded that guarantee to 55 ms. The carrier had also promised a 99 percent packet delivery guarantee, and has upgraded that offer to 99.5 percent.

Customers can select a stronger SLA that WorldCom calls Internet Dial Corporate Gold. This SLA offers stronger network availability and login success rates. WorldCom is able to support these enhanced SLAs by offering Gold customers access to additional dial-in numbers and POPs, Thomas says. Customers interested in the Gold SLA will pay about 5 percent more per month for these guarantees.