Qwest offers Web-based management

Qwest Communications International Inc. has unveiled a unified set of World Wide Web-based tools to manage nearly all their telecommunications services.

Qwest on Monday presented Qwest Control 4.0, which the company calls the industry's first comprehensive multiservice Web-based management platform. It lets users place orders and perform basic network reconfiguration from a single dial-up interface for voice, data and Internet services.

Qwest Control 4.0 covers Qwest's frame-relay, Asynchronous Transfer Mode, dedicated Internet access, World Wide Web hosting and toll-free services. It also manages Qwest's traditional circuit-switched enterprise voice service, called Qwest VNS.

Users simply dial in to a server cluster in one of Qwest's network operations centers, click on the type of voice or data service they're dealing with at the moment, and choose options such as configuration, trouble management and network-performance statistics.

Qwest officials concede that Qwest Control does not have every feature a customer might want. For example, although it provides extensive network performance information for frame-relay, ATM and dedicated Internet access, the Web-hosting module does not provide real-time information on page views. And so far, Qwest's IP virtual private network (VPN) service is not included in the Qwest Control platform. That's partly because Qwest has yet to roll out a VPN.

Version 5.0, which may come out later this year, is expected to include support for IP VPNs, real-time configuration for more types of services and deeper Web hosting statistics.

Analysts applauded the range of services that Qwest is making available on a single platform. The Big 3 long-distance carriers have rolled out Web-based management tools separately for voice, data and Internet services.

"I think this is a phenomenal announcement," said Tom Jenkins, a director of analysis at consulting firm TeleChoice Inc. "I guarantee you that no one else in the marketplace has this."

The key to Qwest Control is a unified customer-management database running on Oracle 8, said Rick Weston, Qwest's senior vice president of product development. Pulling that kind of information together from disparate switching and back-office systems has been a big challenge for older carriers with older systems.

"This does show that an emerging provider has an advantage," Jenkins said. "Some of the other carriers have been much more concerned with getting their internal services from their various mergers talking to each other than in getting them talking to the customer."

For more information about enterprise networking, go to Network World Fusion at www.nwfusion.com. Story copyright 2000 Network World Inc. All rights reserved.

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