WorldCom, Cisco team on IP VPNs

WorldCom Inc. announced its first customer-managed IP (Internet protocol) VPN (virtual private network) bundled package on Tuesday, an offering aimed at customers that want to design and manage their own site-to-site VPNs.

Available immediately, the WorldCom IP VPN Select Access Edition is based on Cisco Systems Inc. IOS-based routers, said Janel Crabtree, director of IP VPN global services for WorldCom.

Until now WorldCom’s VPN customers have had two choices, one for total access (site-to-site) VPNs and the other for remote access users. Both are services that companies would fully outsource to WorldCom and are based on Nortel Networks Inc. and Lucent Technologies Inc. equipment.

The new Select Access bundled set of services and hardware, including Cisco routers and access to WorldCom subsidiary UUNet Technologies Inc.’s network, extends WorldCom’s potential customer base into the estimated 45 percent of VPN customers overall that want to maintain control of managing and monitoring their VPN.

“We provide customers with everything they need, and they take it from there,” Crabtree said. “The customer implements it, sets up the design, manages it and monitors it on an ongoing basis.”

The new package “fills a small hole” in WorldCom’s IP VPN offering and might not have a lot of traction initially, said Rob Carlson, senior analyst for network service at Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Virginia. But within about 18 months, as companies begin to feel more comfortable with managing their IP VPNs themselves, Select Access would be more likely to fit into plans of companies that are migrating in house, he said.

While managed services limit a customer’s upfront costs, the Select Access offering costs more initially, but there are no monthly management fees, and therefore over time is cheaper, WorldCom’s Crabtree said.

WorldCom kicked off its IP VPN services 18 months ago and last year made it one of the company’s major initiatives for 2001. Crabtree declined to provide specifics about the number of customers the company has landed, but described growth as tremendous.

“Everyone believes that IP VPN is where they need to be. It’s just a matter of when is the right time,” she said.

WorldCom IP VPN Select Access offers connection speeds from 56K bps (bits per second) through OC-3 (155M bps) and IPSec-based security that can be augmented by firewall and gateway technologies.

Some of the features of Select Access are Cisco Secure Policy Manager, which enables businesses to define, distribute, enforce and audit network-wide security policies from a centralized location; upgrades to Cisco IOS; access to Cisco’s SMARTnet, which includes around-the-clock technical and support services; repair or replacement of customer premise equipment; and WorldCom global IP network service level agreement performance guarantees.

The service is initially available to U.S.-based companies that require domestic or global deployment to more than 25 countries in Europe and Asia. Those countries are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

WorldCom, in Jackson, Miss., can be reached at