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Virtela Communications

Veritable usage

Virtela Communications leverages existing infrastructure to provide a global network backbone. Deepali Gupta reports

Service provider Virtela offers managed network services, managed security services and business network consulting across 190 countries, including India. It promises 100 percent availability, zero percent packet loss, less than 200 ms of latency, and less than 15 ms of jitter. The company differs from its competitors in that it operates a network operations centre (NOC) in India, and another mirrored centre outside the country.

Infrastructure support

Virtela’s multi-carrier architecture, the Internet Protocol Service Fabric (IPSF) and MPLS Service Fabric (MPLS-SF) use proprietary routing algorithms that dynamically direct customer traffic based on real-time performance metrics. Virtela’s underlying infrastructure was designed from the ground up to be carrier-, access- and vendor-neutral, enabling the company to mix-and-match the best products and services on an ongoing basis to deliver the best performance and access options to customers worldwide.

“In India, we are focusing more on providing multinational and local companies with more services, rather than focusing on the infrastructure. There is plenty of infrastructure already available in India that can be leveraged,” says Vab Goel, chairman of the company. Virtela has developed relationships with over 200 carriers around the world and uses them to service its clients.

The IPSF is a worldwide network of high-performance equipment and bandwidth provided by Tier-1 carriers, including Asia Netcom, AT&T, Bell Canada, Bharti, British Telecom, Cable & Wireless, China Netcom/CNC, Comindo, DYX, HCL Infosystems, IFX, Interoute, Level 3, Linx Telecom, NTT, Qwest, Radiant, Reach, Reduno, Singapore Telecom, Song/Telenor, Telephonica, Telus, UUNET/MCI, and VSNL.

Systems, tools and automation are critical to delivering seamless service. Virtela says it has a sound grounding in all three. The Virtela Operations, Service and Support (OSS) is a customised integration of best-of-breed application software for order entry, service turn-up, and CPE tracking. The OSS also plays a crucial role in the best-path route optimisation used to ensure fast routing between customer endpoints in the network. It is built specifically to support global IP customers.

The Mumbai NOC

Spanning an area of 25,000 square feet, Virtela’s NOC in Mumbai has multi-tiered measures to ensure physical security. Trained guards protect the facility round the clock. Continuous video camera surveillance (archived to tape) and infrared motion detectors throughout the premises are also used to keep watch. All the entrances to the facility are equipped with access control devices, including biometric scanners that map and verify the bone structure of a person’s hand. The facility has a Mantrap designed to ensure that no unwarranted entry or exit takes place. This means that even if a person sneaks into the main entrance, he or she will be caught in a hallway that connects the main operations area to the reception area. All areas are protected with proximity card readers so that only authorised personnel are allowed inside. As far as electronic security is concerned, each new NOC engineer is educated about the company’s documented policies, and periodic awareness refresher courses are conducted. External consulting firms are employed to conduct annual business control reviews to ensure that security standards are met.

Servers are not physically housed onsite. The NOC has virtual access to servers residing throughout a global network policy centre infrastructure, all of which are monitored on a real-time basis from the Mumbai NOC over multiple gigabit links.

Who’s using what

Virtela targets mid-to-large-sized enterprises. Its current clients include Sony, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Deutsche Bank, Honeywell, Coca-Cola, IBM, Daimler Chrysler, EMC, webMethods and Extreme Networks. Virtela’s model has attracted companies expanding their service portfolios and network reach, including IBM Global Services, SingTel and NTT.

Beacon Global Services (BGS), a global supplier of turnkey outsourced call centre services and contact management solutions, uses Virtela’s fully-managed network linking call centres based in the US and India. The benefits they have derived from it include:

  • Voice, data and video all converge on an IP network.
  • Proactive Virtela 24x7 monitoring and management that reduces day-to-day enterprise network administration.
  • Advanced call centre functionality support (web call-back, IM, co-browsing).
  • Always-on, always-optimised international network via Virtela’s multiple carriers.

“There was no other network service provider who could deliver voice quality and state-of-the-art call centre functionality that our project required,” says Sudhir Seth, vice-president and general manager, BGS, explaining why Virtela won the contract.

Getting on board

At the time of signing customers, Virtela goes through an intensive consult-build-manage cycle. Here is how it works.

Consult: This comprises a five-step Rapid Network Assessment (RNA) followed by a plan of action. Representatives from Virtela do an onsite analysis of the existing network. They determine the present and future network requirements based on the client’s business goals. The Virtela team then develops a specific solution for the customer. It then creates the business case in terms of ROI and TCO before delivering an implementation plan.

In addition to the RNA, Virtela offers some Business Network Consulting services that include Offshore Outsourcing, Mergers and Acquisition Integration, Contract Negotiation, Cost and Performance Benchmarking, RFP (Request for proposal) Management, Programme Management, Network Assessments, Advanced IP Addressing, Advanced Traffic Consulting, Security Consulting, Contact Centre Consulting, Convergence Consulting, Business Continuity Planning, Performance Out-tasking, Security Out-tasking, and Cost & Contractual Compliance.

Build: After gaining customer approval of the design and implementation plan, Virtela project managers build the services in phases. With its IPSF network and OSS software infrastructure, Virtela can rapidly execute the implementation plan.

Manage: Virtela’s management capabilities are displayed in the VirtelaView interface for customer access to critical network information. It is an online interface that customers can use to view network performance criteria such as latency and jitter. They can also enter, view and track trouble tickets, place orders for new services, view invoices, and perform many other network administration and management functions.

The company has a pro-active warning system for impending problems. The outage notification is a mere 15 minutes, but the company assures its customers 100 percent remote log-on and 100 percent availability.

MPLS SF Components

Proprietary class-of-service mapping database: Virtela maintains end-to-end class-of-service performance based on its proprietary database for mapping class of service attributes between carriers to ensure that the fastest route is traversed between carriers.

Proprietary routing algorithms: The mapping database is, in effect, a series of routing algorithms that provide the parameters from which the routing decisions for the MPLS traffic are made.

Inherent automatic multi-network failover: Virtela's MPLS SF has the ability to re-route traffic automatically when any carrier backbone fails.

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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