Networking: A mixed bag, for now

A look at the state of network protocol transition and its effect on bandwidth.

With Rosemary Cochran, principal at Vertical Systems Group []. Cochran just released research on network protocol transition as part of the organization's ENS Research Programs.

Question: You've been doing this survey for a few years. What are you finding over time?

Cochran: We look at the legacy of private line, frame and ATM. There is a substantial embedded base and one of the major issues has been that the customer is asking where they go from there. The migration path has been toward IP VPNs and Ethernet. How much IP is used within those networks has been one of the issues customers have to look at. IP over time has been increasing in the percentage of the bandwidth that is purchased by the customer. If you look at private line point-to-point services between two sites, the customer has been allocating private line capacity to different applications. From the data, we can see over the last six years the amount of [network capacity] allocated to IP is steadily going up. In Frame [Relay], the number is over 90%. In private line, the number wasn't as high -- it was 56%. The amount of SNA really dropped significantly and other types of protocols are converting to IP. Customers are moving traffic from legacy PBX systems to IP. Voice and video is moving to IP.

Question: Does this suggest complicated challenges and decisions for enterprises?

Cochran: The challenge today is making that transition from legacy services to more emerging services. In order to get there, we believe you must understand the migratory aspects of what customer networks look like today, what the requirements are. They have to understand what the benefits and tradeoffs of making the change are. This [study] is a very small piece of that big picture.

Question: It also takes a bit of finesse for carriers, who own all these legacy networks. How do they handle it?

Cochran: Certainly the service providers, particularly the larger ones, have existing customers in position to look at making changes and investing in a network. But clearly there aren't many carriers that say, "I am going to give you a lot more bandwidth and functionality and I am going to decrease your bill." Carriers don't typically say that. So they are making the change, but looking at how to move those customers incrementally to gain the benefit of newer technology. If it is an emerging carrier that doesn't have the base, they are looking at taking customers away [from the established carriers]. This certainly is a window of opportunity to do that. Equipment vendors are also looking at the opportunity to provide new equipment, from the core to the access area to the customer site. If I am a customer, I am asking, "Why am I going to change? What do I get and what are the tradeoffs?"

This 3 Questions originally appeared in a weekly report from IT Business Edge.

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