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Moving From Frame Relay to Ethernet: A Case Study

Channel Partners

September 28, 2006

5 Min Read
Moving From Frame Relay to Ethernet: A Case Study

Corporations are continually adding remote offices to better serve their clientele, but in so doing, increase their needs for solutions to handle the voice and data needs of those remote sites. The networking options that are available to solve companies IT needs seem to be as numerous as the number of companies themselves.

So, how do you as a channel partner or service provider begin to propose a solution that fits the customer you are working with? Should you propose an MPLS or Ethernet? Or, should you offer frame relay or private line?

Each technology has its place, depending on the customer. What will work for one customer will not necessarily meet the needs of another customer. Asking the right questions of the customer will allow you to engineer a proposal that meets their unique requirements and helps you make the sale.

The following case study will show not only which network solution worked, but how the customer, their equipment vendor and the network provider came to that decision.

Customer Profile: The customer in this case operates in the health care industry with eight remote sites each within a 100-mile radius of the others — requiring connectivity back to the host site, which is the central data repository. Patient data being shared among sites is highly sensitive, so security is of utmost importance as is uptime from 8 am to 6 pm.

The customers existing infrastructure was frame relay with PVCs from remote sites pointing at the host site. The remote sites run at speeds of 256kbps. The customer has IT staff at the host site to maintain the remote sites as there is no permanent IT staff at the remote sites. And, due to limited budget, the customer is unable to add IT staff to support network applications. At the same time it need to add data applications to run over the new network.

Evaluating the Options: First, we looked at the advantages and disadvantages of different network types and compared them to the needs of this customer. The list looked something like this:

Frame Relay Advantages

Customer can reuse the routers that are in place at the remote sites.

Customer is familiar with the technology.

Customer will not have to pay for overlapping networks. Upgrades to the existing frame network should make billing simple.

Frame Relay Disadvantages

Cost for the overall network increases dramatically when trying to achieve full T1 Port and CIR rates for each site.

Additional equipment must be purchased for the host site to handle the additional bandwidth coming in.

There is a single point of failure at the host. If primary access into host site goes down, all sites lose connectivity.

MPLS Advantages

Customer will likely be able to reuse their existing routers.

MPLS will allow any site to communicate directly with any other site.

MPLS Disadvantages

MPLS port and loop rates were higher than expected. Had the network been more geographically diverse, this factor would have been less noticeable, but for sites that were all close together, and yet some distance from the closest POP, the pricing was out of line.

The host site required considerably greater bandwidth than a T1 in order to guarantee that the host would not be over-utilized. This again drove cost up.

MPLS requires greater IT overhead to manage all of the routers at each site. The customer was looking to decrease the IT burden, not increase it. This obstacle can be easily dealt with by offering a fully managed network solution.

Internet VPN Advantages

The pricing to deliver dedicated Internet T1s to each site was competitive.

Internet VPN Disadvantages

Security concerns. While proper configuration with firewalls, routers and encryption might meet security requirements, this require tremendous IT overhead.

Potential speed issues because traffic would run over the Internet.

Private Line Advantages

Full T1 pipes from host to each remote provide the bandwidth the customer needs without any bottleneck at the host.

A pricing promotion in that geographic area made the network pricing very attractive.

No single point of failure.

Excellent SLAs are available for private line.

Private Line Disadvantages

Routers with CSU/DSUs are still required at each site. To decrease IT overhead, the network needs to be in a fully managed environment, which adds to the monthly costs.

Ethernet Private Line Advantages

Full T1 pipes from host to each remote provide the bandwidth the customer needs without any bottleneck at the host.

A pricing promotion in that geographic area made the network pricing very attractive.

No single point of failure.

No need for routers at all of the remote sites, which allows the customer to reduce IT overhead.

Ethernet conversion boxes at each site allow another means to test and manage the network with very minimal monthly costs in the network.

Ethernet allowed customer to use a simple IP scheme so that all sites can easily communicate with all of the other sites without additional burden at the host site.

Excellent SLAs are available for private line.

Solution: When we compared all the options, Ethernet Private Line gave the customer the most bang for its buck and with the fewest concerns. The new Ethernet Private Line network provided six times the bandwidth (256kbps* 6 = 1,544kbps) into each site with excellent SLAs, no single point of failure and for the same price they were paying for their existing frame relay network. The one concern the customer had, in moving from their existing frame relay network to a new Ethernet Private Line network was the potential for duplicate billing on two networks while the transition was completed. American Telesis was able to work with the customer to mitigate this concern.

Heather J. Selbert is vice president of operations, leading the North American Division of American Telesis by overseeing all facets of the provisioning, engineering, installation and maintenance of American Telesis’ private line and network services. She can be reached at +1 800 297 1122 or [email protected].

American Telesis www.american-telesis.net

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