• United States
by Steve Taylor and Joanie Wexler

What’s a ‘managed service,’ anyway?

Apr 10, 20032 mins
Managed Cloud ServicesNetworking

* Defining the types of managed services

It can be difficult to define the difference between a managed and an unmanaged network service.  The simple truth is that all services, to some degree, are managed services, because your network service provider runs and manages the WAN backbone.  If no management at all is provided, you’re not actually getting a “service.” 

Take the simplest of cases: private-line services. Private lines are often considered an “unmanaged service.”  However, the service provider indeed provides management in the form of provisioning and repair services.  The service provider also does testing, including passive monitoring of T-1 lines that use extended superframe format (ESF).  In fact, the only thing that’s “private” about this service is that the customer receives a dedicated bit stream at the physical layer.

This physical-layer bit stream, however, starts to define one of the planes on which managed services are delineated from their unmanaged counterparts.  More than 10 years ago, the networking industry began an evolution from private-line to packet-layer services as the norm for corporate communications.  As a part of this evolution, the service itself evolved from a dedicated bit stream to packets.  And regardless of whether the packets are frame relay frames, ATM cells or IP packets, the level of management provided by the service provider is greater than was needed for private-line services.

So, whether you profess to be a believer in the wisdom of managed services or not, the odds are high that you’re already well on the road to using managed services.

In the next newsletter, we’ll continue this discussion by looking at other ways of defining managed vs. unmanaged services.