Full-scale convergence is hot topic at trade show

Full-scale convergence is hot topic at trade show

Telecom experts foresee merging public, private networks to quench thirst for bandwidth and data

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

ATLANTA'Convergence ruled at the NetWorld+Interop trade show.

Vendors were not just talking about the convergence of voice and data over networks. They said the growing appetite for bandwidth and data is driving public and private networks to converge via virtual private networking services. Fiber and legacy copper infrastructures are converging, and application service providers (ASP) are merging the delivery of applications by network.

Keynote speaker Rich McGinn, chief executive officer of Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J., said at the conference last month that even network protocols are going to converge into a single packet-based optical core protocol based on IP.

'Right now, IP is not ready to support the network core on a prime-time basis,' McGinn said, but he predicted it will happen.

Fiber backbones are not going to wipe out copper wiring and switches, however. The government is a major consumer of media conversion products that connect older copper cabling to optical fiber, said John Lillywhite, product marketing manager at IMC Networks of Foothill Ranch, Calif.

'Use what you have'the government is good at that,' Lillywhite said. 'They maintain and hold onto products longer than most locations, squeezing all the life out of a product they can.'

By using a relatively inexpensive media converter, a military base or other campus can expand its network onto faster fiber connections without the expense of replacing copper switches, he said.

Media conversion is no longer just a Band-Aid fix for penny-pinchers, Lillywhite said. A fiber blade for a copper switch costs only marginally more than a media converter, and it saves the time and expertise required to configure a fiber switch, which he said is no small task.

Simple Network Management Protocol and other tools now let an administrator see across an entire network'copper as well as fiber. Networks increasingly are reaching into applications that once resided on desktop systems, and third-party provisioning of remote applications has just begun to emerge, said Bob Harper, a systems engineer for Citrix Systems Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

'A lot of organizations don't have the resources to deploy costly software applications,' Harper said, and maintaining them can cost more than buying them.

Citrix demonstrated its MetaFrame and WinFrame server-based host software that can deliver applications remotely over almost any kind of network connection. Running the Citrix software under Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, a provider could deliver applications to almost any kind of desktop hardware, turning it into a thin client.

'Anything that would normally be loaded on the client could be loaded on the Citrix server,' Harper said.

ASP by choice

The connection with an ASP could be anything from a dedicated line to a dial-up modem to wireless, but the most common connection type is over the Internet, Harper said. Applications can be launched in a Web browser or through a desktop PC icon. Citrix's Independent Computing Architecture separates the application logic from the user interface, executing the functions on the server to consume little bandwidth.

Harper said Citrix expects steep growth in demand for ASPs. He said applications are being hosted by dedicated ASPs as well as by telecommunications carriers such as Qwest Communications Inc. of Denver and Level 3 Communications Inc. of Stamford, Conn.

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