As service providers edge their way into an increasing number of network functions that large enterprises traditionally managed in-house, security and control remain hurdles to outsourcing. 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 of San Jose, Calif., is testing a new kind of router, called a multi-router, designed to turn private network routing into a commercial service. Calling the innovation a "real private network," it is built to provide more reliability than a virtual private network at less cost and effort than a fully dedicated system. Although some huge organizations, including the U.S. Postal Service, do procure such a service, it is not cost-effective for carriers to offer it on a widespread basis; it generally would not be any cheaper or easier for a service provider to buy and maintain private independent routers for the enterprise than for the enterprise to do so itself.
The multi-router 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, either 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 multi-router will also give service providers more flexibility and scalability for offering value-added services. "It is impossible for carriers to sell service-level agreements on a shared platform," Glenn said. "With the multi-router, the carrier can add physically separate route processors as it needs them."
Nine service providers are testing the Allegro multi-router, which is slated for deployment the middle of next year.