Forrester study shows continued support for Frame Relay

Multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) technology has quality of service features and provides more bandwidth than legacy data services, but more than half the small to mid-sized Frame Relay users surveyed by Forrester Research Inc. said they have no plans to use a different technology for wide-area networking.

“There are a number of companies holding on to Frame Relay,” said Lisa Pierce, vice-president of Forrester’s telecom and networks group. Some companies’ contracts with their carriers have not expired, while for others, the bandwidth provided by Frame Relay is enough for they’re wide-area networking needs?

Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester surveyed 1,121 telecom decision makers at small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) in North America and Europe, and recently published the results in a paper titled The State of SMB Telecom and Network Adoption.

Of 364 decision-makers who were asked which broadband technologies they use for interoffice networking, 23 per cent said they use Frame Relay or Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), while 48 per cent use site-to-site virtual private networks (VPNs).

Forrester has not stated the results of the survey, conducted by Evalueserve, can be used to make conclusions about the business community as a whole. The research firm has not made any conclusions about the statistical accuracy of the survey and cautions against using the words “margin of error” when reporting the results.

Fifty-eight per cent of the SMB Frame Relay users surveyed said they no interest in moving to a different technology, and Pierce said she knows of some firms that lack the equipment to upgrade to MPLS.

“We have to remember that sometimes, depending on when the customer implemented Frame Relay, their router may or may not be upgradeable to IP,” she said. “So they’re not just looking at changing out a service, they’re looking at changing out a router too, and they need to have the budget to do that.”

But this does not mean MPLS is unpopular. In a separate Forrester survey of firms with more than 1,000 employees – dubbed The State of Enterprise and Telecom Network Adoption – 19 per cent of executives said moving some or more of their Frame Relay, ATM or dedicated data lines to IP data services is a “critical priority,” and 40 per cent said they plan to spend more on MPLS equipment and services in 2006 than they did last year.

Pierce said one of the reasons is MPLS costs less than Frame Relay would for the same amount of bandwidth.

“Everyone recognizes that MPLS is the foundation for future wide-area networking, and whether or not they just use it for tunneling right now, putting class of service aside, I think most people recognize they’re going to be walking down this road. It’s just a question of when, not if.”

In its surveys of SMBs and enterprises, Forrester also asked telecom decision-makers about their use of other technologies, such as instant messaging, voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), security and wireless.

Of 492 IT executives at North American SMBs, 27 per cent said they plan to spend more on wireless data services in 2006 than they did in 2005, while only seven per cent said they plan to reduce spending.

Pierce said the availability of third-generation wireless services is part of the reason these executives plan to spend more, but the business benefits of mobility is another reason.

“Mobile applications, whether it’s mobile data or others, can radically improve a company’s performance, and if you’re a small or medium business, that’s very important,” she said.

The survey results indicated an increase on spending on security services.

When asked what level of interest they had in buying different types of security technologies as a managed service over the next three years, 48 per cent of the 665 SMB network security decision makers surveyed said they have already purchased anti-virus as a managed service, and another nine per cent were “very interested.” Forty-two per cent said they already had managed firewalls, while six per cent said they were “very interested” in buying firewalls as a managed service.

Pierce said in many SMBs, the IT person in charge of security often has duties other than security.

“That person is juggling multiple tasks, and it’s possible that because of that, that when push comes to shove, there are times when they may not be able to give security the attention it deserves.”

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