lets telecom buyers compare products, services lets telecom buyers compare products, services

By William Jackson<>
GCN Staff

An online marketplace has attracted federal telecommunications buyers who want to make apples-to-apples comparisons of products and services from hundreds of vendors. opened for business in March, at, with a proprietary search engine and database.

'It was very helpful,'' said Walid Saliba, program manager for the Transportation Department's Intermodal Data Network.

Saliba said he was searching for information about virtual private networking and found what he needed in the online site.

The site also has begun hosting online requests for proposals and requests for information.

Fifteen of the first 95 requests came from federal agencies, said Elias Shams, chief executive officer and co-founder of Corp. of Washington.

Shams, who used to work as a Defense Department contractor and a network engineer for the Transportation and Labor departments, formed the company in 1997 with his wife, Sharmine Narwani.

'We built it out of the frustration we felt ourselves'' as vendors and buyers, he said. 'I made so many mistakes'' on system designs because gathering information about products was so difficult.

The database uses standardized acronyms and product information from vendors. Buyers enter criteria in the search engine and search for products and services by type, vendor, compatibility and interoperability. produces a table for comparison purposes.

The service is free to buyers. Vendors pay a fee to list products and services and enter their own information through a Web connection. The online forms for RFPs and RFIs automatically notify appropriate vendors by e-mail when a request is posted. Buyers also are notified by e-mail when a response comes in, and they can order online.

'I posted an RFI when I was learning the system,'' Saliba said. 'But my main intention was doing some research'' on virtual private networks. He runs the core routers for Transportation's IDN, which provides Internet connections and WAN interfaces for departmental headquarters in Washington, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Coast Guard.

Eventually, VPNs will become an option for connecting smaller agencies, but the complexity is considerable, Saliba said. He was researching availability of equipment when he found and did not have to go further.

A better look

'It gave us a clearer picture of what is available,'' he said. He has not yet bought any VPN equipment, however.

Shams said the online RFPs do not fulfill all federal requirements for competition but can be helpful in preliminary searches for vendors and products.

The site lists about 300 vendors including AT&T Corp., Cabletron Systems Inc. of Rochester, N.H., Intel Corp. and Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J.


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