Pratt & Whitney Canada has four major sites and three smaller locations spread across Canada. Until about two years ago, the aircraft engine manufacturer relied on a wide-area network built on ATM and Frame Relay, with point-to-point links to a central hub in Longueuil, Que.

This was inefficient,

particularly for traffic between major sites in Lethbridge, Alta., and Mississauga, Ont., which traveled an indirect route through Longeuil. It also meant that a failure at the hub could cut off communications among sites across the country. “”We wanted to follow a strategy where we would depend more on the network,”” says Réal Corriveau, the manufacturer’s chief technology officer for IT, “”so we wanted to have more built-in redundancy.””

Pratt & Whitney also wanted a fully meshed network, allowing direct communication from any site to any other, and wanted the network to be owned and managed by a service provider.

The solution turned out to be MPLS services from Bell Canada, which can support up to 150 megabits per second (Mbps) into the Longeuil campus, Corriveau says, with a backup link capable of 10 Mbps. In Mississauga, there is a primary link capable of 50 Mbps with a 10-Mbps backup, while sites in Halifax and Lethbridge, Alta. have 10-Mbps primary links with ISDN backup and three smaller sites have 1 Mbps capacity.

Besides data traffic, the MPLS service carries voice traffic over the IP network. Pratt & Whitney has contracted for three service levels. The real-time level is used for voice traffic. Currently, data travels at default priority. The company also has access to a higher priority, which it is reserving for “”any application that would be very sensitive to any contention on the network,”” Corriveau says.

There were some teething problems with VoIP service over MPLS. Corriveau says Pratt & Whitney’s private branch exchange equipment is sensitive to dropped packets and there was initially a bit of trouble with PBXs resetting. Some adjustments to equipment resolved the issue. Otherwise, Corriveau says, the service has run without outages since it was installed.

Some of the best news for Pratt & Whitney was that the company was able to get the MPLS service for the same cost as its old ATM and Frame Relay connections, while replacing some customer-owned equipment with gear provided by Bell.

The company solicited bids for the new service at a time when telecom carriers were struggling with overcapacity and weak demand.

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