Telus is preparing to automate the way it provisions IP virtual private network services in order to improve reliability and offer new services to corporate customers.

Canada’s second-largest carrier said it had chosen IP activation

software from MetaSolv Software Inc. to ease the delivery of MPLS-based IP VPN services over its multi-vendor IP network. Last year Telus installed MetaSolv’s Policy Services product to handle its IP addressing challenges.

Although IDC Canada has pegged IP VPNs as the fastest-growing category in the data communications business, carriers who haven’t automated service provisioning are forced to store the configuration of every device on the network. IP VPNs may also demand some procedure to change those configurations.

“”It’s really a manually intensive activity. It’s almost untenable to do it by hand,”” said Brian Lakey, manager of TSA strategy at Telus. “”Without it, we would have significantly longer service delivery cycle times . . . whenever we take Cisco, say, as our MPLS network, if we wanted to change that, we wouldn’t have that level of abstraction away from it.””

IP VPNs tend to come with high service expectations from corporate customers, said David Sharpley, senior vice-president of marketing with Plano, Tex.-based MetaSolv.

“”If you’re Bank of Montreal or Bank of Nova Scotia and you’re using an IP VPN service provider, there’s ongoing adds and changes, just given the number of branches and add and deletes they would be doing across that network infrastructure,”” he said. “”Those things are very complex to manage and activate and ensure ongoing consistency. It’s different from the circuit world. In the packet world, you’ve got a lot more devices in the service delivery chain.””

Like many carriers, Telus is interested in offering services like bandwidth on demand and customer self-service to bring more value to its IP investments.

“”It’s roughly following the utility model and enablement of the end customer,”” said Lakey. “”I think it also increases the reliability and resiliency of the service. . . . Both in the PC or computing space as well as in the network space, there’s enabling technologies that are letting these models take form.””

Service providers tend to get IP VPN offerings up and running first and then tackle the provisioning, Sharpley said. Once they’re at a break point, they’ll look at how they can increase the automation and solve some of the pain points in their service provisioning lifecycle. That could take anywhere from a couple of months to well over a year, he said.

“”There’s really no single, logical representation, end to end, of the service and the network,”” he said. “”What we represent is the ability to go down and discover the elements in the network, represent that in a tool, manage all the services and all of the sites of those customers in a graphical-friendly way.””

Telus looked at multi-vendor support, cost, scaleability and the product’s track record when it chose MetaSolv, said Lakey. The carrier has not announced when it will begin offering some of its new IP VPN services, but Sharpley said the two companies were already conducted network trials of the software in Telus’s labs. Customers can usually see a return on their investment from IP activation tools within less than a year, he added.


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