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Do you trust the Internet?

Remove risk and ensure privacy in the virtual private network.

It's a dark and stormy night. Aunt Gertrude is creaky but spry. She excuses the butler and the maid for the evening and removes the counterfeit Blue Boy portrait. She opens the vault behind the gilded picture frame and reaches for the velvet box. There it is, the emerald brooch encrusted with winking diamonds. This is for Emma, her dear grand niece, the one who will carry the family name into the next century.

Question: Will Aunt Gertie send the family heirloom via post office or by private courier?

Next question: Years later, when gertrude.com decides to send its vital data to emma.com, will IT managers choose to transport the family jewels over the Internet or via a dedicated, leased line?

PRIVATE NETWORKS VS. VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORKS

Major telecommunications players such as AT&T, TCI, and Sprint provide private services over the public networks. Deregulated and consolidated, they offer the business customer a large menu of delivery options, including the ubiquitous T-1 (or faster T-3) dedicated leased lines. Leased lines are proven, reliable media for transporting critical data over an extended enterprise network. The cost of the leased line is the cost of peace of mind.

The Internet-based VPN option takes advantage of the cheap, fast, public Internet space. By using the Internet for VPN services, data transport costs decrease by 70%. Migration toward this option, however, has been justifiably slow and tentative. Why? Because, although the theory is sound, VPNs often fall short when implemented in the real world. Basic problems with security, scalability, and reliability need to be solved before real rollouts can take place.

WHAT'S YOUR DEFINITION OF VPN?

When distributed computing was a new concept, there were probably more than 20 working definitions of "client/server." The same is true with the term "virtual private network." For the sake of discussion, a VPN is herein defined as "use of the public Internet network to send and receive private data securely."

As defined, this VPN works as a single extranet that will support many specialized ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications, replacing all those multiple, costly network connections. This enables an e-commerce enterprise to run its business on a single extranet, using the Internet for its end-to-end processes.

The VPN-based business-to-business commerce model is the killer app for this technology. The demands of transaction-centric IP traffic--small, busy packets that must fulfill real-time consumer expectations--require an extranet; that is, high-priority, private use of public space.

CRASHING THE CULTURAL BARRIERS TO USING PUBLIC SPACES

Published ISP backbone tests indicate that the corporate-class Internet model performs far below expectation. One reason is because TCP is sensitive to packet loss and any packet loss leads to longer sessions. Thus, when delays cannot be tolerated--that is, for critical business data--there's enough skepticism out there to resist the Internet and stick to the leased line. Building the backbone of a business-only TCP/IP network is possible, but the concept must be translated into successful, large-scale implementation.

The future network of networks will be an ever-expanding universe. Because the Internet is without limits, flat, free, and unregulated, the people's Internet and the commercial Internet should be able to co exist without mutually incurred impacts. The beauty of this universe is that all users--individual consumers and business--pay for access. Thus, the Internet will pay its way and grow according to demand.

CLASH OF THE TITANS

Recent acquisition scenarios point toward a packet-based, Internet-driven convergence for any supercarrier offering a menu of telecom and next-generation delivery services. Lucent's acquisition of Ascend, Nortel's of Bay Networks, and Cisco's many investments in new, and often competing, technologies point toward a more flexible, flat, free delivery system in the near future.

Business customer expectations for real-time transaction processing is being driven by Web sites for everything from account services to brokering industrial materials. Very soon, the bar will be raised for all forms of delivery for virtually any business need. Mass market and e-commerce business requirements will bear down on the status quo. The turning point will be next-generation data transport and last-mile delivery. The first supercarrier to offer risk-free VPN delivery will win the network wars.

Removing the risk and fear of using a common carrier may or may not change Aunt Gertie's habits. It is, after all, still a dark and stormy Internet night. However, with advanced VPN technology, her grand niece soon will send critical data "beyond the price of rubies" by way of the VPN secured public Internet ... without thinking twice about loss or delay.

Chow is a vice president of Network Alchemy, Santa Cruz, Calif.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Internet/Web/Online Service Information
Comment:Internet-based virtual private network (VPN) services are being offered by major telecommunications companies such as Sprint, TCI and AT&T.
Author:Chow, Ken
Publication:Communications News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 1999
Words:772
Previous Article:TELEPHONY/CTI.
Next Article:NEW PRODUCTS.
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