BT's 21CN: Metro Partners Under Wraps

Uncertainty surrounds partnership programs of some of BT's key 21CN suppliers

May 3, 2005

4 Min Read
BT's 21CN: Metro Partners Under Wraps

The dust still isn't settling after last week's 21CN primary supplier announcement by BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA). (See BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers.)

While Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI) continues with its rearguard action, some of the successful vendors are still keeping their detailed strategies under wraps. (See BT Shuns Marconi for 21CN, Could Huawei Buy Marconi?, and Marconi to 'Pursue All Strategic Options'.)

Of the three winners in BT's Metro category (see charts below), only Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is currently providing any background detail to support its initial announcement, while Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Siemens Communications Group are keeping it quiet for now.



Cisco's Router Parade
Cisco wasn't shy about mentioning its new core router, the CRS-1, in its 21CN press release, but didn't lay out its delivery plans for BT's metro nodes (see Cisco Picked for BT's 21CN). So what's in the cards?

Geraint Anderson, VP of the vendor's Service Provider Wireline unit for EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), says there are six other Cisco elements and a critical partnership to consider.

First, there's the 12000 metro router, which Cisco is busy upgrading to include its new operating system, the IOS XR (see Cisco's CRS-1 Gets Edgy). Then there's Cisco's B-RAS (broadband remote access server), the 10000 router, which is widely deployed by European carriers (see Telefonica Picks Cisco for DSL, Telecom Italia Adds More Cisco, and Cisco Pads B-RAS Offering).

Cisco is also providing its 7600 Ethernet switch, its Catalyst 6500 switch for VPLS support, and its MGX media gateway, which will be controlled by centralized softswitches BT is sourcing from Cisco partner Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY). (See BT Picks Ericsson for 21CN, Cisco Enhances Catalyst Switches, Cisco, Ericsson Join Forces, and Cisco Skips Class 5.)

Last, but certainly not least, says Anderson, is the firm's Service Control Engine, built using P-Cube technology (see Cisco Unveils IP NGN Strategy and Cisco Plucks P-Cube for $200M). This provides a "programmable service layer, QOS support, traffic analysis," and other functions such as security and billing support. "It's a critical piece" that helps to control the other network elements," says Anderson.

Also very important is the policy engine being delivered by Cisco partner Tazz Networks Inc. Its Policy Control System acts as an applications, subscriber, and network capability control center, and supports the service provisioning process (see Tazz Gets Jazzed). BT has long been interested in Tazz's technology (see BT, Tazz Team on IP Services).

Anderson says Tazz is the "only clear partner we have for 21CN at this stage. There are many more discussions to be had in the coming months." Would those discussions involve a partner in the session border controller sector? "I couldn't say at this stage."

He adds that Cisco will be bolstering its BT support team to "potentially hundreds of people. There is significant service and support involvement for the duration of the 21CN program." BT aims to turn off its myriad voice and data networks and run all its services across a single IP architecture by 2010.

But despite that tight timeframe, Anderson says there's "no timescale for product deliveries," though he adds, "we're ready to go."

Alcatel and Siemens Go Quiet
As this article was published, both Alcatel and Siemens said they had nothing more to add to their original press releases, though Siemens said it should have more information about technology and partners in the coming days (see Alcatel Picked for BT's 21CN and Siemens Picked for BT's 21CN).

Siemens says it will "assume responsibility for specific zones of the new architecture, including Carrier Ethernet products, IP routers, network technical support, initial conformance testing of multiple vendors’ equipment and its integration into BT’s new network." That is likely to encompass the supply of edge router technology from one of its key partners, Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR).

Alcatel, which is supplying its 7750 Service Router and 5620 Service Aware Manager, says it can't elaborate on any application-specific technologies or partners at present. It's uncertain whether partners such as edge router vendor Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK) and session border controller partner Acme Packet will get the green light from BT.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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