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Digital wants to unclog pipelines

Digital Equipment opened a facility to help lines between ISPs and the Internet.

Digital Equipment today opened a facility in California designed to relieve clogged connections between local Internet service providers and the Internet.

Digital says its Digital Internet Exchange in Palo Alto is the first combined switching and data center for the Internet. The center lets ISPs connect their customers to the Net backbone, as well as maintain vast "server farms" that host customer Web sites.

With its exchange center, Digital is hoping to become one of the first major computer manufacturers to tap into the growing Internet access and Web site hosting market. The center is partly intended to showcase and sell Digital technology like its Gigabit switches, Alpha-based servers, and clustering technology, but Digital says it will also help ISPs avoid the currently overloaded network access points that serve as the gateways to the big Internet backbones run by the major telecommunications companies and national access providers, such as UUNet Technologies, Sprint, and MCI Telecommunications.

The local ISPs, under renewed competitive pressure from those very same telcos for dial-up services, are anxious to respond to customers frustrated with Net slowdowns and demanding better performance. Enter Digital and its network access point, which offers direct links to multiple backbone providers.

"We're allowing you to put your warehouse right in the center of the airport," said Don Bradley, a Digital spokesman. "Your server is sitting right on top of the pipe."

Digital's hosting service costs ISPs $750 per month to rent space for one server, plus an additional monthly charge that varies according to the speed of the connection the Internet. A 100-mbps connection costs $5,200 a month, while a 10-mbps connection costs $1,500.

According to one Digital customer, the exchange center complements existing network access points in Northern California that are in danger of being overloaded, such as Metropolitan Area Exchange West, run by UUNet's parent company MFS Communciations.

"In case MAE West blows up, we can now route through UUNet or PacBell," said Bruce Lichorowic, vice president of sales and marketing at Best Internet Communications, a local ISP that is the first to sign for Digital's new center.

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