Startup Offers Less Costly Route to WAN

Straitshot will launch a lower-cost option for using WAN connections.

To offer a lower-cost alternative to frame relay and MPLS services from telephone companies, startup network service provider Straitshot Communications Inc. will launch a WAN service by aggregating carrier networks and dynamically choosing the least expensive line.

Straitshot officials touted their technology, called Intelligent Private Network, for its ability to provide the security of frame relay and the performance of Multiprotocol Label Switching for much less money. Through partnerships, the company brings multiple carriers circuits together in its own network facility. It has seven carriers signed up so far, including Sprint Corp., MCI Inc. and Covad Communications Inc., and officials said they expect to sign as many as 30 within a year.

"We make them all one," said Mark Coluccio, chief technology officer and co-founder of the Bellevue, Wash., company. "Were using the low-cost carrier in every location."

Carriers, which compete with Straitshot, become partners because they have much more capacity than they can sell directly to users, Coluccio said. The carriers view Straitshot basically as an ISP, even though it does not offer Internet access.

Straitshot officials champion state-of-the-art equipment, which lets users prioritize traffic, making the service optimal for VOIP (voice over IP) and other real-time applications. The same kind of traffic prioritization can be achieved via MPLS, but MPLS, which hasnt been widely deployed, costs more.

Seattle-based engineering company R.W. Beck Inc. has been testing the Straitshot service since April as a substitute for the frame relay network that connects its five regional offices and approximately 400 users. The company was not satisfied with the pricing or performance of its frame relay service from one of the major carriers, said Don Bird, IT director at R.W. Beck.

There were delays, and packets were lost over frame relay, which was unacceptable because R.W. Beck relies on the network to deliver not only e-mail, financial data and time sheets but also huge CAD files, Bird said.

"We found that we had some quality problems on our frame relay network," Bird said. "We were looking for a system similar to frame relay, where we have control over our own system."

Straitshot had circuits installed and hooked into routers at the companys sites. The traffic moves over a private backbone to Straitshots network facility in Sunnyvale, Calif., never touching the Internet and obviating the need for tunneling, encryption or firewalls.


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