MCI Outlines Convergence Strategy, Recruits VARs

At NetWorld Interop here, the carrier laid out a road map for developing and deploying converged data and voice network solutions over its IP platform. And, on a broader scale, it outlined its intent to take advantage of the convergence of the computing and telecommunications industries, said executives.

"We're not only talking about traditional voice and data convergence, but also referring to the fact that the computing world and telecommunications world is coming together and we see MCI with its IP networking experience as being well-suited to be a success in this convergence," said Jim DeMerlis, vice president of product management at MCI.

MCI is already recruiting VARs to go after the midmarket's need for convergence solutions, said Ron McMurtrie, vice president of global marketing at MCI. VARs will have access to the convergence solutions and be able to combine their own solutions with MCI's network and services to "attack the midmarket in partnership," he said

DeMerlis added that MCI is developing a "comprehensive and robust" VAR program to sell not only MCI's classic telco services, but convergence services as well as upcoming managed services. "We look at VARs as a critical distribution channel for us, and [MCI Chairman and CEO] Michael Capellas has said that VARs will be a part of our attack on the midmarket."

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Many companies are moving their applications and processes to IP. "With Web services and applications, for example, we feel that in order to be successful, these services will need to run on an IP network as a means for CIOs to become more efficient and drive out costs," DeMerlis said.

The building blocks of this convergence networking strategy include access, transport, infrastructure and intelligent services.

"With access, for example, our focus is driving consolidation," he said. "It's bringing people in through broadband access, wireless access via corporate LANs or local connectivity and providing them with uniformed connectivity, a seamless uniformed experience into our network."

Uniformity is also the key in transport services. MCI intends to move its backbone to a single IP core. "The IP core will be the framework for us building convergence from the inside out," McMurtrie said.

As part of its transport services offering, MCI introduced a Secure Internetworking Gateway that creates an interface between frame relay and IP VPN or between ATM and IP VPN. The core technology behind the gateway is MPLS.

On the infrastructure side, the gateway gives a customer access to a direct connection from its data centers into its core network vs. being patched onto a network, said McMurtrie.

McMurtrie cited MCI Advantage, formerly WorldCom Connection, as an example of the kind of intelligent services MCI will introduce in coming months. MCI Advantage consolidates long-distance networks, local networks and various data networks into a single IP framework. Another example is MCI hosted voice services, he said.

Managed services is a healthy growth spot for the carrier as well, said McMurtrie, adding that the company will be making several announcements and investments in this area.