April 23, 2001
A newcomer to the fiercely competitive optical Ethernet market may have found a way to distinguish itself among cash-strapped carrier customers.
Atrica Inc., born in February 2000 (see Out of Atrica), today launched its first products -- including two networking boxes designed to put legacy carrier traffic onto Ethernet in metropolitan area networks. Atrica says this will enable telecom carriers to consolidate both legacy voice and data traffic onto Ethernet links that are cheaper and easier to maintain (see Atrica Intros Optical Ethernet System).
Atrica also released the news that BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS) has joined its board and will contribute an undisclosed amount to the startup's funding.
Atrica hopes to get an edge over rivals such as Appian Communications, Luminous Networks Inc., Tropic Networks Inc., and World Wide Packets Inc.
In general, Atrica's new products aim to deliver the economics of Ethernet without extras like synchronous voice, special video support, or other features that have typified announcements from some rivals.
Instead, Atrica stresses the basic value proposition of WAN Ethernet for less. It says its wares will sell for $1,200 to $3,500 per gigabit port, compared to metro Sonet prices of $18,000 per port for OC12 (622 Mbit/s) -- figures Atrica says it's taken from estimates by the The Dell'Oro Group.
"There's nothing fancy here. Atrica's doing flat-out Ethernet, competing strictly on price/performance," says Michael Kennedy, managing partner at Network Strategy Partners LLC, a consultancy.
Atrica's new products include the A-2100 Optical Ethernet Edge Switch, designed for the basements of customer premises or for carrier points of presence (POPs). The box takes in multiple TDM (time-division multiplexed) leased lines at rates from DS1 (1.544 Mbit/s) to T3 (45 Mbit/s) and uses circuit emulation to put them onto gigabit Ethernet connections in 1-Mbit/s increments. TDM voice is encapsulated in Ethernet using ITU spec G.744. The A-2100 also has OC3 (155 Mbit/s) or OC12 interfaces, so it can turn Sonet links into enterprise Ethernet bandwidth. Each A-2100 has a full-duplex capacity of 4 Gbit/s.
A second product, the A-5100, is designed for POPs of central offices. It supports up to 24 1-Gbit/s links and is designed to aggregate traffic from multiple A-2100s, supplying redundancy for all links. Both boxes are available now, along with an element management system that provisions services, monitors traffic for SLA (service-level agreement) verification, and uses Corba to tie into external OSSs (operation support systems) at carrier networks.
In many ways, Atrica's saving its best features for later. The A-8100, a 10-Gbit/s Ethernet core switch, is slated to ship during the third quarter of this year. The A-8100 will introduce MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) technology to Atrica's product line and will give carriers a way to replace OC3 and OC12 Sonet links at the metro core network.
And, at the Supercomm trade show in June, Atrica plans to announce a product that will support WDM (wavelength-division multiplexing), which will further extend the Ethernet capacities and distances Atrica's boxes support.
What is different is Atrica's stress on big carriers -- specifically, big international carriers interested in improving their transmission speeds with a minimum of fuss and cost. Atrica's enlisted these carriers as both funders and customers. In addition to BellSouth, Atrica's announced that four service providers, Bezeq, France Telecom SA, SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC), and Telia AB, have contributed $18 million to Atrica's $40 million in funding to date.
Customer-wise, trials are underway at Bezeq and France Telecom (see Atrica Announces Trials, Appointments). Atrica also says it's enlisted a German carrier and a trio of U.S. providers as trial customers. (The identities of these new customers are being kept under wraps, but sources indicate that one of them is Deutsche Telekom AG [NYSE: DT]. And it's likely that BellSouth and SBC would test Atrica's wares in the U.S.)
Atrica's focus on the big carriers is important. Given the current financial climate, experts say it will be these, not specialty providers, who ultimately finance a big buildout of Ethernet services (see Endless Ethernet?). And carriers are likely to help Atrica fund a product that will actually sell, instead of one that's developed at arm's length from customers.
The products are still in trial and have yet to ship, however, so time will tell whether Atrica's strategy is on the mark.
- Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com
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