Bell Atlantic network serves Washington-area agencies

Bell Atlantic network serves Washington-area agencies

With 135 OC-3 interfaces, the Sonet backbone can handle bandwidth-heavy applications

By Richard W. Walker

GCN Staff

Stop. No trespassing. This is a single network for federal agencies only.

The network is the Federal ATM Network, an asynchronous transfer mode WAN built by Bell Atlantic Federal of Washington for use only by federal agencies in the Washington area.

About 30 agencies in the Washington area use Bell Atlantic Federal's high-speed ATM network, which has expanded to include five Marconi TNX-1100 ATM network switches.

'This is a big network, and it's dedicated for the federal government,' said John Eidsness, senior manager for product development at Bell Atlantic Federal. 'The network was specifically designed to address the low-latency, low-jitter environment that [bandwidth-heavy] applications are going to need.'

The network has been up and running for three years, and it continues to expand to meet new demands.

The network started in 1997 with two ForeRunner ASX-1000 ATM network switches from Fore Systems Inc., now a part of the British maker Marconi PLC.

It has since been upgraded with the installation of five Marconi TNX-1100 switches'two in Washington, two in Virginia and one in Maryland'connected to a Synchronous Optical Network backbone.

Bell Atlantic plans to add a third Marconi switch in Washington, said Brian McMahon, data services product manager for Bell Atlantic Federal.

Currently, the network has 135 OC-3 ATM user network interfaces serving 30 civilian and Defense Department agencies, McMahon said.

The ATM network is essentially an outgrowth of Bell Atlantic Federal's work on the Advanced Technology Demonstration Network, a high-performance networking test bed established by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, he said.

ATDNet serves as an experimental platform for network research and demonstration initiatives, with an emphasis on deployment of ATM and Sonet technologies.

Bell Atlantic provided the physical infrastructure for ATDNet.

The ATDnet project convinced Bell Atlantic officials that many agencies wanted pipes that could handle new, bandwidth-intensive applications such as those using video, McMahon said.

Need for speed

'A lot of agencies were trying to get onto [ATDnet] to do some high-speed applications, and they weren't really researchers,' he said. 'So the need was there for higher bandwidth and higher speed, but it wasn't available.'

Moreover, federal agencies using Bell Atlantic's Fiber Distributed Data Interface Network Services (FNS), a data service that connects subscriber LANs in metropolitan areas over a shared fiber-optic backbone, also expressed a need for faster, high-capacity services. At the time, FNS provided only 10-Mbps services.

'A lot of agencies were telling us that 10 Mbps wasn't enough,' he said.

Agencies using the Federal ATM Network can buy services depending on their bandwidth needs. Most agencies started out with Bell Atlantic's lowest-cost service, OC-3 unspecified bit rate service, which has no real quality of service guarantees, McMahon said.

'Now what we're finding is that as agencies are adding applications and different types of services across the network, they're going to [constant bit rate] services,' he said.

CBR guarantees bandwidth for applications using, for example, real-time voice and video traffic.

The Federal ATM Network continues to evolve into a multiservice network, recently adding connections to Bell Atlantic's Enterprise ATM Network, a 90-switch WAN whose customers include universities, commercial contractors and businesses, and to Bell Atlantic Internet Services for an Internet link.

It's a switch

This year, Bell Atlantic officials will provide a second connection to the Internet. Again, it was a matter of customer demand.

'Customers were asking for diverse routes to the Internet in case one of them went down,' McMahon said. 'So what we're doing is setting it up out of a different switch in our network and a different [point of presence] to the Internet so that it will be going through a different router into Bell Atlantic Internet Services.'

Also this year, the network will add gateways to the FNS service and to ATDnet for authorized agencies, he said.


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