Ethernet equipment

Avici Amped Up for Soapstone Launch

NEW YORK -- Ethernet Expo -- When Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7) announced in April it would be abandoning the core router market and focusing on its new Soapstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SOAP) software unit, the announcement was met with alarm from investors. (See Avici Abandons Routing, Targets PBT.)

But Avici says it's overwhelmed with interest from carriers and vendors in Soapstone's control plane software, which will be available in beta format before the end of this year.

"The carriers are coming to us at the CTO and above level. They understand what has been missing and are making strategic decisions to address that," says Soapstone's VP of marketing and business development Esmerelda Swartz.

That missing piece is a virtual control plane, divorced from the underlying physical infrastructure, that can monitor a network's service level agreement (SLA) performance and perform other management tasks, such as network optimization, regardless of the network technology and topology.

Soapstone's initial focus has been PBT (Provider Backbone Transport), the emerging Ethernet technology championed by Nortel Networks Ltd. and BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA). (See Soapstone Intros PNC for PBT and Soapstone Goes to CEWC.)

"PBT was a natural first step because it was missing a control plane," says CTO and founder Larry Dennison, adding that that the control plane software, which Soapstone calls the Provider Network Controller (PNC), has generated interest from "every Tier 1 carrier that is evaluating PBT technology." (See Deutsche Telekom Flirts With PBT and BT Sells PBT-Based Backhaul Service.)

He says one of the PNC's key attributes is its ability to help with multi-vendor interoperability -- a capability already tested by German outfit European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC) in a recent Ethernet trial. (See EANTC Preps MEF Demo and Vendors Clash Over PBT.)

"We actually help with interoperability," says Dennison. "One of the reasons it's been so hard to do multi-vendor [tests] is because the control planes are in different boxes," whereas Soapstone's software sits between the network and an operator's back office OSS systems.

Swartz says Soapstone isn't quite ready to back up its claims with announcements of customer engagements just yet, but she says the company has achieved some significant customers that will be announced later this quarter when the PNC goes into official beta testing.

Meaningful revenues, though, are some way off. Dennison says guidance for Soapstone's sales will be provided during Avici's fourth quarter earnings conference call in February next year.

— Raymond McConville, Reporter, Light Reading

dask 12/5/2012 | 3:00:38 PM
re: Avici Amped Up for Soapstone Launch This is quite interesting. Are T1 carriers giving up on in-skin control planes ala GMPLS in favor of out-of-skin centralized ones? Will this mean demise of GMPLS? Is Soapstone targeting control of PBB-TE only or other technologies also, such as SONET/SDH or DWDM?

My understanding was that GMPLS should enable seemless vendor interworking at least at control plane layer, assuming data plane is interoperable.
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