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AT&T, MCI ride outsourcing trend

The two telcos announce network performance packages in the hope that more businesses outsource the administration of their in-house networks.

The outsourcing of network administration is an emerging trend, analysts say, as companies are increasingly faced with the escalating costs of managing their own networks and the tight labor market for IT professionals.

AT&T (T) and MCI Communications (MCIC) have announced network performance packages, hoping that businesses will soon give up the expense and hassle of administrating their own networks and turn to the telecommunications giants for help.

MCI last week announced their Advanced Trouble Analysis Center (ATAC), a collection of products designed to manage and monitor MCI's customer networks. The center measures network performance against a model, helping to predict network problems before they happen.

AT&T also introduced AT&T Interactive Advantage at last week's COMNET trade show. The service allows customers to monitor their network performance, and identify potential network problems with online performance analysis tools.

According to David Passmore, an analyst at the Decysis Group, services like AT&T's and MCI's will increase in popularity as network costs skyrocket and IT professionals become harder to find.

"With the difficulty of finding and retaining skilled people who can troubleshoot, and the high cost of maintaining the people and the tools to troubleshoot, it's great if you can outsource that," he said.

The AT&T Interactive Advantage interface is also secured so that it restricts employee access. AT&T also announced new performance guarantees for their Frame Relay service. The Service Level Agreements (SLAs) include guarantees for network delays, availability, and data delivery rate.

Passmore identified the retail industry as a sector that could benefit from network services. "Anyone in the retail business, or retail banking where you don't have skilled technical people," would be able to take advantage of these services, he said.