Allstream adds a touch of class

Allstream, formerly AT&T Canada, recently rolled out a Dynamic Class of Service feature for its Business IP Service, allowing customers to carve IP traffic into four service classes on one permanent virtual circuit using Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS).

“This is targeted at organizations who want to run a real-time class of traffic, like voice over IP, or video,” said Eric Fletcher, Allstream’s vice-president of product management for connectivity services. “That real-time class is set up to ensure those packets meet specific rate and jitter thresholds as they hit our network.”

In addition to the Real Time traffic class, Allstream is offering a Bursty High class for bursty traffic that requires high forwarding reliability and a Bursty Low class for low-priority bursty traffic. The lowest service class, Best Effort, is geared towards non-time-sensitive data like e-mail.

Allstream Business IP Service customers could run voice over IP and video traffic before, but they needed dedicated connections for each real-time service, Fletcher said. With Dynamic Class of Service all of a customer’s IP traffic to a particular site can now run over one logical PVC connection, instead of requiring multiple PVCs.

“Dynamic Class could potentially save customers money by making it easier for them to add sites to their virtual private network (VPN) cloud,” Fletcher explained.

Dynamic Class of Service will be a standard part of Allstream’s Business IP Service and customers won’t have to pay any extra. The service should work with any standards-based router, Fletcher said. So customers who don’t have a managed router service as part of their Business IP Service should still be able to run the four classes of traffic.

Dynamic Class is only one of several enhancements Allstream plans to roll out over the next 18 months for Business IP. Some of the future additions include: support for multicast; real-time application reporting; moving from ATM to Ethernet in the network core; and allowing customers to make real-time changes to their service packages.

Allstream is also negotiating with “five or six” carriers to deliver Dynamic Class on an international level, Fletcher said. Currently Allstream can support three classes of service for customers with sites in the U.S. with Real Time, being the only class not supported. Although MPLS is a standard, every carrier marks the traffic differently, Fletcher noted. “Everyone interprets the standards slightly differently,” he said. So to get Dynamic Class to work with other carriers will require some technical cooperation.

As business customers move to run voice and video over their data networks, all major Canadian carriers are going to need some kind of dynamic class of service offering, said Mark Quigley, an analyst with Yankee Group Canada in Ottawa. “We’re seeing more and more people throwing their traffic over one network instead of having separate voice and data networks, so the ability to define class of service for real time traffic becomes important,” he said. All of the major Canadian carriers are relying on MPLS to reach that goal, Quigley noted.

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