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VPNs: Virtela CEO speaks out

Managed IP VPN services provider Virtela Communications Inc. has a new president and CEO. Christopher Clark is a 15-year veteran of the telecommunications and computer industries, and comes to the two-year-old, Denver company from Sprint, where he developed and implemented that company's global IP strategy and product portfolio. Clark talks about his company, as well as the VPN and managed services industries in general.

Managed IP VPN services provider Virtela Communications Inc. has a new president and CEO. Christopher Clark is a 15-year veteran of the telecommunications and computer industries, and comes to the two-year-old, Denver company from Sprint, where he developed and implemented that company's global IP strategy and product portfolio. Clark talks about his company, as well as the VPN and managed services industries in general.

Tell us a little about Virtela and what it offers.
Clark: The company is really a good-news story amid a lot of bad (industry) news. Virtela has strong funding, entering our third year in business, and competing against big players. We have Fortune 500 as well as mid-market customers, and we're adding new customers every week. We provide leading-edge technology on the IP surface layer -- with Net based VPN, as well as voice-over-IP and video-over-IP technologies. We have the unique ability to meet with a company, and in as little as two or three hours, map out their IP network, determine where they are with that network and get down on paper what their needs are. We can also implement more quickly than our competitors and, after the 60-day installation period, we perform quality reviews of the system.
 

Talk about where VPN technology is today; what is the enterprise demanding from current offerings?
Clark: Customers are looking for quality of service and class of service capability across their entire networks -- getting the same class of service they had on previous legacy networks. From VPN, customers are looking to try and leverage the IP layer to lower costs, as they migrate from what they had in the past. The term VPN is getting a little confusing today. It means a lot of things to a lot of people. Folks lump things like frame relay and ATM together. We're seeing a separation between customers who rely on yesterday's technologies and those who realize that they can't continue to physically wire connections around the world, that it's too expensive. Those are the customers who realize that IP-based platforms will be the only answer.
 

How is your company trying to meet those kinds of demands?
Clark: First off, we offer a low-cost, flexible model. We have the capability to ride on top of the transport layer. We sit on other people's backbones for transport, creating the low-cost model. Additionally, we have a mix of IT veterans and up-and-coming engineers, a blend of discipline and experience to take the Internet to the next level.
 

What mistakes do you see IT network managers make implementing a new VPN solution?
Clark: IT managers are under pressure to perform, as well as to lower costs and expand the network. What we're seeing is some IT managers relying on yesterday's model, going back to the vendors asking them to lower their prices. Sometimes that works, and solves the cost issue, but it doesn't expand the network toward a goal of global connectivity. We like to see self-confidence in customers, who are willing to take the step toward implementing an IP-based solution that gives equal security to their old legacy network.
 

"Managed private network services solutions will continue to increase. " -- Christopher Clark, president and CEO of Virtela Communications

 

Looking to the future, what changes are on the immediate horizon for VPN technology?
Clark: I think you'll see more proactive performance-reporting solution from service providers. Customers more and more want to see how the network is doing with a particular service provider. Also, as basic as it sounds, receiving one single bill for all of a company's telecom needs is becoming desirable among enterprises. We see customers spending hundreds of thousands of dollars just to reconcile bills from telecom providers. They want a single bill that's accurate and on one piece of paper. I think we'll see some experimentation with clientless VPN technology -- looking into do-it-yourself, VPN-on-its-own, using Layer-2 encryption rather than Layer 3, the IP layer.
 

How about further down the line?
Clark: We're already seeing the shift from interest toward momentum in wireless VPNs that will offer the same security, encryption, and speed, but it will be on the handset rather than the PC.
 

How is the adoption of managed services in the enterprise changing the industry?
Clark: Managed private network services solutions will continue to increase. But as they do, they'll require stronger relationships between customers and providers. Service providers should not just assume the customer will want to outsource all control of the network. What's needed is a partnership-oriented approach, being willing to manage what the customer wants you to manage now, and having the flexibility to change if the customer needs to change. Whether the customer changes its mind, or if there is growth, or a shift in corporate policy, the provider has to remain flexible and adapt to those changes.

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