• United States
by Steve Taylor and Joanie Wexler

A five-year WAN retrospective

May 13, 20032 mins

* What has changed since the birth of this newsletter?

As we approach our fifth anniversary of authoring this newsletter, we’d like to compare the burning issues that prevailed in 1998 to those of today. How did some of the trends going on back then play out?

The “Wide Area Networking” newsletter was born on March 2, 1998 as the “Frame Relay” newsletter. The original authors were Tom Jenkins and Jeff Phillips, then of consulting firm TeleChoice. We picked up the writing baton a few months later, in May of that year.

In their kickoff newsletter, Jenkins and Phillips compared the traits of frame relay and ATM for use in corporate networks.  Today, frame relay continues to be a major force in corporate networks, while the interest in most ATM user-to-network interface (UNI) services has ebbed.  ATM remains a strong force in service provider backbones, though it is likely to morph into Multi-protocol Label Switching if the MPLS/Frame Relay Alliance succeeds in its efforts.

The second Frame Relay newsletter compared the merits of frame relay to IP networks – a topic that remains hot today.  Further, the authors identified three major issues to be addressed in order for IP networks to be successful: security, reliability and performance. These remain important concerns in IP networking. But advances in firewalls, intrusion detection, encryption/VPN technology, quality of service and MPLS traffic engineering have gone a long way in addressing those issues. And the gap between IP and frame relay services has closed significantly.

Other issues that Jenkins and Phillips covered in their newsletters were managed services, service-level agreements, disaster recovery and international services, which are still on the minds of many.  But other services that seemed to hold so much promise back then are rapidly fading into the sunset.  These include frame relay switched virtual circuits and voice over frame relay – capabilities that found pockets of deployments but never mushroomed into widespread acceptance.

By the way, if you want to catch up with Jenkins and Phillips today, Jenkins is at McLeodUSA, a voice and data service provider, and Phillips recently joined Virtela as director of marketing.