Irrepressible Frame Relay
by Joanie Wexler
Posted 11/3/2003; Published 7/2003




Old WAN services never really die, says networking industry veteran and consultant Bill Flanagan—with one exception. He maintains the only one that has actually gone extinct is Morse telegraphy. Frame relay shows no signs of going the way of the dots and dashes anytime soon, despite threats from various flavors of IP virtual private network (VPN), metro Ethernet, ATM and MPLS services.


Frame is not just maturing and enduring, but gaining new options. Subrate DS3 and multilink frame relay (MFR), for example, now enable incremental capacity upgrades between T1 and T3 speeds (also see “Multilinking Across The T1-To-T3 Chasm,” in BCR, May 2003). Meanwhile, hybrid frame relay/IP-VPN services provide an IP migration path for companies that want IP’s site-to-site, meshed connectivity without giving up their frame relay expertise.


Frame-to-Internet gateway services—with or without a managed firewall component—are also fairly recent developments that let users put private frame relay traffic and Internet connections on the same access circuit. And access options also have expanded, enabling mobile and remote workers to get on the corporate frame network via private mobile wireless, IP dial and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) access networks.


According to research firm Vertical Systems Group, frame relay revenues grew about 14 percent between 2001 and 2002. Infonetics Research, another research firm, predicts that user spending on frame relay services will total $16.7 billion this year. According to Infonetics, frame will finish second only to its 13-year nemesis, leased-line services, commanding $23 billion of user dollars.


Of course, frame’s double-digit revenue growth won’t last forever. Already, business customers are beginning to add new types of WAN connections as their application mixes shift and as new sites without legacy gear join their networks. But for many enterprises with large volumes of data traffic to shuttle around, frame relay is doing the job just fine, thank you very much.


About the author:

Joanie Wexler, an independent editor and writer based in Silicon Valley. She has spent 13 years analyzing and covering trends in the IT and computer-networking industries.



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