ATM Viability - Page 3

 By Linda Paulson
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Despite the additional perception that there is a push in the enterprise to replace ATM with IP, network administrators are expected to retain their legacy investments in ATM and will transition over time to IP. The big interest now seems to be in hardware that retains the existing ATM infrastructure while allowing IP to be layered on top of it.

"Even once a substitute technology is developed ATM will continue to evolve," says Humphrey. This has been the case throughout the life-span of this technology. "When everyone thinks ATM everyone thinks cells ... but ATM has changed. There are different versions of ATM ... and it is changing over time as IP is. IP looks nothing like it did 10 to 15 years ago."

Humphrey says ATM is now able to transmit either fixed length or variable packets.

Most advantageous to ATM's future is its strong base. "Even when there is an alternative technology," says Humphrey, "the transition costs are extensive. It's not just new equipment. It's an issue of training people and of mitigating the risks of moving to a new technology. The longer it takes MLPS or IP over lightwaves to be evolved and deployed, the more entrenched ATM networks become."

Another reason enterprises are hanging on to ATM is their legacy applications, particularly for secure transactions. Although new transport technologies might be deployed within the network, administrators are loathe to give it up and risk security breaches that might be possible with, say, IP over VPN.

Flynn says different enterprises have differing needs and ATM is important in many different vertical markets such as schools, hospitals and government. "They use ATM more and are continuing to deploy ATM. They have traffic that is mission-critical," she says. These enterprises need both speed and security. "Having that reliability, that quality of service is very critical to some of these types of enterprises." One such example being telemedicine.

Townsend says this is true as well in large corporate networks where there is a large ATM investment. "There's no reason to change," he says. "Once they've got it they're not going to give it up. It doesn't offer that much in savings to take it out and put something new in."

One factor folks had not counted on as regards ATM's continued stronghold was the impact the national economy compounded by the events of September 11 had on network deployment and investment. "It slowed innovation worldwide," says Humphrey. "This is something we could not have predicted."

Linda Dailey Paulson

This article was originally published on Feb 6, 2002
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