Nortel, Laurel Launch New Routers

Nortel decides to scale up with its enhanced Shasta router, while Laurel opts to downsize with its ST50 device

June 9, 2004

4 Min Read
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Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) and Laurel Networks Inc. both are releasing new broadband remote access server (B-RAS) boxes this week, advancing product lines that have gone a long time without any upgrades.

Nortel today announced a larger version of its Shasta 5000 Broadband Service Node, a release intended to push the platform into more of a mainstream B-RAS standing. The updated Shasta platform also gets a new name: the Services Edge Router (SER) 5500 (see Nortel Upgrades Shasta Router).

The new box has already been deployed in the global IP network of Web hosting company Savvis Communications Corp. The two companies go back a long way: The data center specialist already uses Nortel's Shasta 5000 BSN as the core WAN component in its virtualized services delivery platform (see Savvis Gets Virtual).

Nortel hopes that other organizations are likely to follow suit. To date, the Shasta 5000 BSN has been deployed in more than 200 service providers and enterprises, including China Telecommunications Corp. (NYSE: CHA)and China Netcom Corp. Ltd. (see China Picks Nortel's Shasta Box).

Shasta is best known as an IP-security platform, competing with CoSine Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: COSN), rather than with the more dominant B-RAS players, says Graham Beniston, an analyst with Heavy Reading, Light Reading's paid research service. "They've beefed up some of the processing [to enhance security features] but as a B-RAS, it needed some more session density," Beniston says.The SER 5500 doubles Shasta's density, to 64,000 subscribers, while claiming the ability to run stateful firewalls for each session. The release also includes a major revision of Shasta's software. General availability for the platform is slated for July.

Lee Doyle, VP for network infrastructure at IDC is unsurprised by Shastas evolution into the SER 5500. He says, “Shasta has done a decent job by carving out a niche in the market, but Nortel needs to broaden its strategy and go for the larger multibillion-dollar edge market.”

Nortel sees services such as hosted VPNs starting to merge with B-RASs, and the SER 5500 is being positioned to tackle both areas, says Terry Boland, Nortel director of marketing. In the long run, Nortel expects B-RASs to get absorbed into edge routers. That makes the SER 5500 a stopgap, marking time until the day when the B-RAS becomes part of an edge-router platform such as the recently announced Neptune, formally named the MPE 9000 (see Neptune Arrives).

The SER 5500 is needed for now because the addition of higher-layer services into the MPE 9000 line is "further out in the rollout -- quite a bit further," Boland says. "The MPE [for now] is going to focus on Layer 2 and Layer 3 convergence and not touch on the higher-layer services." Moreover, Nortel officials have stated they intend to continue the Passport and Shasta product lines, even though both overlap with the MPE 9000.

Laurel, meanwhile, released the ST50 yesterday, its first new system since the ST200 two years ago (see Laurel Launches New BRAS and Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack). Though it's an edge router, the ST50 will likely see action as a B-RAS at first, says Steve Vogelsang, Laurel's vice president of marketing.The ST50 is a shrunken version of the ST200, supporting 32,000 sessions versus 128,000. It was created because the ST200 is overkill for some situations. "In some portions of the network you need the features, but you don't need the number of subscribers," Vogelsang says.

The ST50 is half the physical size of the ST200, making it one-fourth of a rack, but its switching capacity is much lower -- 5 Gbit/s compared with 160 Gbit/s for the ST200. The box targets lower port speeds, with interfaces for only OC3 (155 Mbit/s) and Gigabit Ethernet. The ST200 carries those interfaces, too, but also goes up to OC192 (10 Gbit/s).

Equipment vendors commonly trot out half-sized versions of their flagship boxes (see Sources: Cisco Building 'Son of HFR'). But for Laurel, this could turn out to be a crucial step. That the company has been passed up by potential acquirers could be an indication that the ST200 wasn't what the market was looking for, Beniston says. "They've been around for another year now, and I haven't heard of any other deployments. The B-RAS market is maturing, and you have to wonder if these guys are going to make it."

Laurel seemed ripe for acquisition by a larger player, but instead the deals went to others such as Vivace Networks, acquired by Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA), and TiMetra, acquired by Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA). Laurel does have a large OEM partner in Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), which can sell a combination of Laurel and WaveSmith boxes at the edge. The lack of acquisition prospects was enough to knock Laurel off Light Reading's Top Ten Private Companies.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading, and James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-gen Data Center Forum0

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