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Opening our minds to managed services

Mar 24, 20033 mins
Managed Cloud ServicesNetworking

Managed services let you deploy services faster, accomplish more using existing staff and gain access to skills you don’t possess. However, many companies seem reluctant to use them, and this might have more to do with historical beliefs than today’s reality.

What many people today consider dedicated services are actually managed services. For instance, when you buy a private-line service such as T-1, there’s very little that’s “private” about it. The bandwidth is dedicated, but the service provider handles all the operation, administration and maintenance for the service.

The differentiation between a standard service and a managed service also is highly dependent on the user-to-network interface (UNI) between the network and customer premises.The UNI for standard frame relay and ATM services is on the network side of the DSU/CSU. The DSU/CSU and everything on the customer side is customer premises equipment (CPE). Everything else belongs to the service provider. So a “managed service” starts whenever traditional CPE is provided and managed by the service provider as a part of the network.

Many younger network professionals have trouble understanding why the typical UNI is where it is. The UNI’s location has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with politics and history.

Twenty years ago, we had “the phone company.” And even after divestiture, the majority of domestic telecommunications was in the hands of AT&T and the seven regional Bell operating companies for several years. At that point, if the phone companies had possessed the technical expertise and priced services appropriately, most corporations would have bought full data transport services from them. But regulators were concerned that letting the phone companies provide CPE and computing equipment would concentrate too much power in one entity and inhibit competition. Consequently, regulations were established that severely limited the scope of data services that the phone companies could provide.

To combat the phone companies’ lack of technical expertise, data communications professionals emerged who were trained to take the basic services from the service provider and add intelligence on top of them. T-1 multiplexers, routers, PBXs and the entire LAN infrastructure evolved independently of the service providers.

Fast-forward 20 years. Rampant competition exists, so most of the regulatory barriers for moving the UNI into the corporate site have been removed. Today, service providers have the ability and expertise to provide essentially any part of the network.

It’s time to move our thinking forward with these advances. Managed services offer tremendous potential for most companies. All we have to do is open our minds to include these services as viable options.