WorldCom Bolsters VPN Services

To make dedicated IP VPN services available to more business customers, the telecommunications carrier added Cisco-based offerings to the mix.

Scrambling to maximize the potential of the relatively lucrative business market, WorldCom Inc. this week during its bankruptcy proceedings lofted a series of updates to its portfolio of global virtual private network services.

To make dedicated IP VPN services available to more business customers, the Clinton, Miss., telecommunications carrier added Cisco Systems Inc.-based offerings to the mix. The Cisco platform is WorldComs second dedicated VPN platform, giving customers choice beyond the Lucent-based offerings already in place.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has been using WorldComs Lucent-based IP VPN services for almost two years, according to Greg August, CIO at the Bethesda, Md.-based organization. The service links approximately 400 users at 90 offices coast-to-coast, using either 56 kbps connections or dedicated T1 lines.

"It is really a drop-the-lines-in, drop-the-routers-in and forget about it kind of service," August said. "I couldnt ask for a better service from a VPN standpoint."

The managed VPN offerings allowed the foundation to implement human resources applications and financial accounting applications that enable fund raisers to work more effectively, August said. Because the organization is subject to some requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, security is becoming increasingly important to its network, he said. WorldComs dedicated services include 3DES encrypting engines in one platform for public and private IP addressing requirements.

"Were dealing with patient information, and confidentiality is vitally important to us," August said. "We dont want any holes in the wall here."

For telecommuters and roaming workers, WorldCom is launching an IP VPN "remote access-to-frame" service. Users will be able to log securely into frame relay networks via UUNET from any location. The new offering will mean users do not have to maintain CPE on-site, which will free up rack space at the customer site, said Audrey Wells, senior manager of WorldComs global VPN services.

The new remote VPN service will be available to customers connecting to the network via digital subscriber line, dial-up connectivity, ISDN and cable.

Dedicated VPN users will now be able to connect via DSL and Ethernet, as well. WorldCom was offering this option previously only on request to large enterprises, Wells said. Today, Ethernet connections are available in New York, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, San Jose and Washington, D.C., the company said. Down the road, the company plans to add additional access methods to the portfolio, including VSAT for remote users, Wells said.

Although the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is fully satisfied with its existing services from WorldCom, company officials do not plan to sign up for new services while the carriers financial circumstances remain in flux, August said.

"We deal with public money here. Weve got to protect the investments people make in us," August said. "Right now, the services are great, theyre excellent, but were in a little bit of a holding pattern. Its just not prudent to keep adding services from them until they get their house in order."

Future enhancements to the VPN suite will include expanded Service Level Agreements as network reporting and monitoring tools become more sophisticated. "The more [customers] can look under the hood, the more theyre going to want in terms of SLAs," Wells said.

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