Allegro Tests Multirouter

RPN turns private network routing into commercial service, offers additional flexibility, scalability

As service providers edge their way into an increasing number of network functions typically managed by the enterprise, security and control remain obstacles to overcome.

In the case of routing, organizations with mission-critical traffic generally invest in pricey routers, housed and managed on-site, rather than relinquish their autonomy to a more public system offered by carriers.

Allegro Networks Inc. is testing a kind of router, called a multirouter, designed to turn private network routing into a commercial service.

Officials with the San Jose, Calif., company called the innovation a "Real Private Network," or RPN, built to provide more reliability than a VPN (virtual private network) at less cost and effort than a fully dedicated system. Although some big organizations, including the U.S. Postal Service, do use the larger services, they arent cost-effective enough for carriers to offer them on a widespread basis, according to company officials. They said it would not be less expensive or easier for a service provider to buy and maintain private independent routers for the enterprise than for the enterprise to do so itself.

Ajit Kapoor, chief architect at Lockheed Martin Corp., is evaluating Allegros technology.

"Most VPNs have an inherent problem because they use the Internet and rely on IP," Kapoor said. "An RPN uses leased lines, so I can provide my own dedicated security. Its a fairly straightforward concept: Can I get the same security at better cost?"

The multirouter allows carriers to support a multitude of physically separate routers, which are leased by enterprises, over a single system. It is built to give enterprises the isolation and control of a dedicated network and at the same time give carriers the flexibility and scalability of a public service.

"Were turning routers from a fixed expense to a variable, leased expense," said Matthew Glenn, director of product management at Allegro. "Youve got all the autonomy and isolation of buying a Cisco [Systems Inc.] router; you just dont have to write the big check."

Each router is managed separately by the service provider or by the enterprise, with the enterprise in control of configuration.

"Breaking into one of these is just as hard as breaking into a Cisco router," Glenn said. "The carrier cannot even look at the configuration of the enterprise customer."

The multirouter will also give service providers more flexibility and scalability for offering value-added services, Glenn said. "It is impossible for carriers to sell service-level agreements on a shared platform," he said. "With the multirouter, the carrier can add physically separate route processors as it needs them."

Nine service providers are testing the Allegro multirouter, which is slated for deployment in mid-2002.