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Expanding The Network Edge

Resurgent corporate and consumer demand for broadband is re-stirring service provider appetites for new edge router technologies. After years of stagnation, worldwide revenue for service provider routers and switches totaled $1.37 billion in the first quarter of 2004, down 1 percent from the previous quarter -- but up 25 percent year-over-year -- according to Infonetics Research. More importantly, analysts are projecting worldwide revenues in the router and switch market to reach $8.5 billion in 2007.

In the context of this heady environment, we are witnessing a renaissance of innovation in the edge router space, as manufacturers roll out a diverse set of boxes tailored to the specific needs of carriers large, small, and in-between.

Small Is Beautiful, Too

One of the hot markets actively courted by the edge router manufacturers is the small- to medium-sized service provider community. If vendors deliver as promised, carriers in this relatively young market (born in the wake of the Telecom Act of 1996) will no longer have to stagger under the weight of technology designed to support the traffic dynamics of telecom behemoths, or tinker fruitlessly with underpowered boxes designed for the enterprise market. Technology developers on both sides of the equation insist that they have come up with Goldilocks solutions "just right" for this carrier market.

This week, for instance, Laurel Networks crammed the functionality of its ST200 broadband remote-access server (B-RAS) into a smaller chassis called the ST50, emphasizing DSL provisioning and "triple-play" services.

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