A faster, cheaper and more secure data and voice network may be the Holy Grail but according to a small UK company it can offer just that with what it says is a world first.
Switch IP's bizarrely-named InPurple Premiercall offers a combined voice, video and data service over IP without recourse to the Internet cloud. The company claims it solves the quality of service issue that has bedevilled most IP telephony services.
As its service does not route at Layer 3 but switches at Layer 2, InPurple is more secure and faster than comparable services. Most companies that offer voice-over-IP link branch offices via an Internet cloud. Switch IP said that its service would therefore be cheaper, faster and more secure than anything that had gone before.
Director Stephen North explained InPurple does not use a public IP network. The service is switched at the ATM Layer 2 - not routed at Layer 3 - and so "the endpoints of the network do not need firewalls", he explained.
"Its ATM characteristics mean that there is no exposure of Layer 3 in the public domain," he said. "Data is therefore totally secure as it traverses the network. There is zero packet loss and MPLS policies are applied at the IP layer at all points in the network.” He claimed that this was a revolutionary approach: "We’ve created a new type of salad, without genetically modifying the ingredients."
The service uses a Cisco ATM switch at the core. North said that the company had decided to use Cisco to meet the demands of those companies that had a Cisco-only policy. The service uses a single firewall at the core, meaning that network managers would find it easier to upgrade anti-virus policies as there would be no need to patch branches on an individual basis.
Crucial to the offering is the wider availability of BT broadband services. The last mile connection is made over ADSL, although, as Switch IP managing director Andy Terry pointed out, the wider availability of broadband across the UK would make it an even more attractive product. In time, the use of SDSL would improve the videoconferencing facilities, he added.
The service is UK-only at the moment, although an international service is in the pipeline. One customer, Courts, said it has made savings of £100,000 on previous spending of £377,000 by using the service. It was able to get rid of legacy equipment as well as reduce spending on firewalls and dedicated voice lines, said the company's network manager Mark Gamlin. Virgin has also signed up to the service.
Andy Bray of the ATM Forum, while unwilling to comment on a individual vendor’s offering, said that such services fitted in the way that ATM was heading. “We increasingly see ATM as a technology that supports voice. This technology looks like a nice bridge between IP networking and ATM.”