The deal calls for Sprint to provide frame relay data services to companies currently using applications based on IBM's System Network Architecture (SNA) technology. The new service will be called Sprint Frame Relay for SNA.
Many large companies use SNA to network so-called "mission-critical" mainframe, client-server, and intranet applications. Sprint will offer services that will allow those companies to consolidate multiple SNA networks onto frame relay networks.
Sprint cites studies which claim that more than 50,000 companies use IBM's SNA technology, and that more than 60 percent of all data messages transmitted over wide area networks pass through an SNA-enabled mainframe computer.
For Sprint, the deal means the company now has an advanced data service that will help it to compete with rivals including MCI Communications and AT&T, for a chunk of an enterprise data market estimated at $3.3 billion, according to The Yankee Group .
For IBM customers, the biggest advantage, according to Sprint, is simplified management of networks, since Sprint administers the frame relay circuitry for wide area networks. Also, companies can more easily add new applications without redesigning networks.
Sprint claims that companies can save as much as 40 percent on data communications services, vs. the cost of maintaining their own networks.
The new service will be available beginning in the third quarter of this year, Sprint said.