Case Study: PortMaster 3 Integrated Access Server

An American company uses PortMaster 3 Integrated Access Server to expands its base, while two British firms adopt VIPER to...

An American company uses PortMaster 3 Integrated Access Server to expands its base, while two British firms adopt VIPER to coordinate their different offices

1. PortMaster 3 for Best Internet

Best Internet is one of the fastest-growing Web-hosting, connectivity and co-location services companies on the US West Coast, with 14 points of presence (POPs) covering the entire San Francisco Bay Area. This company is unique among Internet Services Providers (ISPs) because it virtually gives away its dial-up Internet connection service so that its customers, most of whom are website developers, can have fast and uninterrupted access to their own customers' websites.

"We have a very technical customer base," explains Jim Zarley, president and chief executive of Best Internet. "Eighty per cent of the people who subscribe to our dial-access also have websites on our servers. These customers don't use dial-up just to get to the Internet, but also to upload files to our servers. Best Internet's plans for the future include extending our Web access and hosting business beyond Northern California both throughout North America and in Europe and the Pacific Rim."

To support its customers, Best Internet uses a robust network of Internet access servers, with redundant T-3 connectivity direct to major Internet backbone providers to supply uninterrupted, high-speed connectivity between its customer base, Web server hosts, and the Internet.

Because of its technologically aware customer base, Best Internet can't afford to make mistakes. Since the company first began operations nearly three years ago, it has relied on Lucent Technologies PortMaster family of remote-access servers to provide the maximum reliability and ease of management that are critical to the success of the company's business. "We had been using PortMaster 2 technology that had served us well while we were providing 28k8 dial-up," explains Bob Tomasi, chief operating officer. "But it was time to upgrade to a more robust access layer because the majority of our subscribers are demanding higher speed as well as quality access to our Web hosting accommodation." Until now, Best's network included analogue modems connected to edge devices. To ensure optimum performance and throughput for its 2,000 plus business customers and 20,000 dial-up users, Best needed a product that would allow customers to move from analogue to 56k/V.90 to ISDN. That's why its management sought an all-digital solution.

Best's technical team was already familiar with the reliability and easy management features of Lucent Technologies PortMaster hardware products and ComOS operating system. In the autumn of 1996, therefore, it was more than willing to beta-test the PortMaster 3 Integrated Access Server.

"The first thing we noticed about the PortMaster 3 when we opened it up, was the quality of the engineering of the layout of the boards and the modems." Observes Rich White, chief technology officer. "We hadn't even seen how it worked, but we were amazed at how well designed it was. We plugged in our first PortMaster 3 in September of 1996, and it has proved to be virtually bullet proof." Among the other design features of the PortMaster 3 that caught the attention of White and his fellow engineers were its integrated functionality and compact chassis design that minimises cabling and space requirements. When they noticed the unused slots inside the chassis, Best's engineers immediately realised the PortMaster 3 also allows for significant future scalability.

"The PortMaster 3 was heavily evaluated over a period of eight months by a team of some of the best network and systems engineers in the business," White reports. "No problems occurred during the testing, and the PortMaster 3 consistently outperformed all other devices in its class." Best engineers also liked the fact that, despite the enhanced features of the PortMaster 3 over the PortMaster 2, Lucent Technologies' ComOS operating system remained stable and easy to administer.

Best Internet upgraded its entire Bay Area network by replacing PortMaster 2 technology with 43 of Lucent Technologies next-generation PortMaster 3s. The modem pool architecture enables fault-tolerant resource management. Best Internet is clearly pleased with the results of its upgrade to the PortMaster 3. In the words of Jim Zarley, "Our business plan has always been to provide the highest quality Internet service. In addition, with the emergence of 56k and ISDN, we want to provide our customers with the latest technological advances that will enhance their Internet experience. This, coupled with the ability to do remote diagnostics and maintenance, is what drove our decision to install the Lucent PortMaster 3 technology."

"I sleep better at night," White concludes, "knowing that Best Internet has PortMaster 3s providing dependable access to our network. For fast, reliable access, the Lucent Portmaster 3 is the best price/performance product on the market."

2. Paxdata's VIPER at Grenville Consulting

In one of the first implementations of its recently launched VIPER (Voice over IP Enterprise Router), Paxdata Networks is bringing major savings in time and efficiency to computer consultancy, Grenville Consulting.

Formed in 1985, Grenville Consulting (UK) Limited (GCL) is an independent IT consultancy that specialises in providing high quality service and solutions to both the public and private sectors. It has two offices in the UK, in Manchester and High Wycombe. Grenville Consulting works with its customers and partners to make IT provision more efficient, more cost effective and more competitive by offering a full range of professional services including: consultancy, support, customer training and partner programmes.

VIPER is based on fast-packet technology on Voice-over-IP (VoIP) with advanced header compression, which efficiently allows both data and packeted voice/fax to share bandwidth on the same link. It incorporates a high performance router plus two voice channels using the latest DSP-based G.7298Kbits/s voice compression standards, endorsed by the ITU as providing toll-quality speech capability.

VIPER's distributed PABX capability allows connection between standard telephones connected via VIPER ports and any other telephone in the corporate network. Taking advantage of this functionality, Grenville Consulting installed two Paxdata VIPERs earlier this year, one at its Altrincham headquarters near Manchester, the other at a satellite office in High Wycombe.

With VIPER-connected telephones acting as remote extensions of the corporate PABX over leased lines, workers at High Wycombe can now make and receive standard PSTN and internal calls exactly as if they were directly connected to a standard key system or the PABX at Manchester.

"It was primarily VIPER's Voice-over-IP capability that influenced our decision to buy," explains Paul Griffiths, marketing manager, Grenville Consulting. "Using VIPER, if somebody dials our Altrincham office looking for a member of staff, who is actually working from High Wycombe, they can be seamlessly put through from the Altrincham switchboard.

"This offers us convenience and economy in one package since there is no longer any need to operate a separate telephone switchboard at High Wycombe. Also, we can save money as we integrate new satellite offices onto the system in the future by not having to make a major investment in new phone systems."

Grenville Consulting used to operate an ISDN link between Altrincham and High Wycombe purely for its data requirements using BT's ISDN-2 service. As the line was up most of the time, costs were considerable, as were its separate voice call charges. Under the new system using Paxdata's VIPER, it operates with a leased line for LAN traffic, and the voice calls (up to two, concurrently) are free.

"The fixed cost with this system makes telephone charges much easier to control," explains Griffiths. "Also, we are currently considering implementing video-conferencing. The functionality of Paxdata's VIPER makes that a viable proposition too."

3. Paxdata VIPER at Henmans Law Firm

Henmans is also one of the first firms to implement Paxdata's VIPER, which began shipping earlier this year. Providing high throughput for voice and data coupled with significant cost savings, leading 100-strong Thames Valley law firm, Henmans has adopted VIPER (Voice-over IP Enterprise Router) technology from router manufacturer, Paxdata Networks, to connect its Oxford and Woodstock offices.

Installed by systems integrators, SMT Network Solutions, the VIPER system supports two inter-PABX voice connections plus LAN connectivity on the one 256Kbits/s Kilostream link. Systems integration manager at Henmans, Colin Paice explains the decision to implement the VIPER voice and data integration solution from Paxdata:

"The previous system we had proved to be unreliable and we felt that the voice quality was unacceptable. In contrast, the efficient voice and data integration offered by Paxdata's VIPER should enable us to make significant savings. We now have confidence not only in our internal phone links but also in the data connections between servers at Woodstock and Oxford. We have been extremely impressed with the level of service and support we have received from both Paxdata and SMT."

Chris Ball, managing director at SMT, comments: "We have worked with Paxdata networking equipment for several years now and have always found it to be efficient and reliable."

Geoff Marshall

This was last published in July 1999

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