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June 21, 2001
An upcoming announcement from Dorado Software Inc. could test just how far carriers are willing to go in offering policy-based services to their customers.
Next week, Dorado plans to announce additions to its Redcell provisioning suite enabling it to dynamically allocate bandwidth for individual users. All the pieces needed to do this will ship within the next three months, Dorado says.
Its new products will equip carriers to offer services that drive up revenue on existing networks, the vendor claims, such as content-driven subscription services. The software also will let carriers provide bandwidth as users log on, instead of holding big pipes in reserve. And it could make bandwidth allocations as customers request them -- like, that very minute.
Are carriers ready to make best use of this granularity? Some are and some aren't, experts say.
"This software is tailor-made for metropolitan-area Ethernet service providers," says David Passmore, research director at The Burton Group. He says Dorado's software will give carriers such as Telseon Inc. or Yipes Communications Inc. the automation they crave to slice and dice their gigabit Ethernet bandwidth for business customers quickly and easily.
Indeed, rumor has it that one or more Ethernet service providers may be evaluating Dorado's software, possibly as an add-on to an existing system. Yipes and Telseon say they have developed their own provisioning-on-demand systems in house, Yipes reportedly with customized software from Syndesis Ltd.
Operators seeking to generate new services on cable networks also are clamoring for this kind of product, since residential bandwidth calls for handling many wildly different demands at once, with maximum network efficiency.
"Our products are aimed at all service providers... Cable operators are very important to us," says Dorado VP of product development Jerry McDowell. So far, Dorado claims several service-provider customers, including IP Communications and others it can't name.
Dorado's software is based on a core of code that runs a range of applications geared to specific functions of provisioning a broadband network. The new product, called Redcell 2.0, comprises a set of programs, supporting Oracle database software, that includes a secure DNS/DHCP server that identifies users by IP address within a network service, links those addresses with specific services, then extends control to the devices on which the services are based. The suite also includes software that automatically discovers and configures network devices, sets policies for specific network conditions, monitors faults and performance, and can activate changes to the network as needed.
Other vendors of broadband provisioning software say they can do what Dorado does. Emperative Inc. and Syndesis claim they can control bandwidth based on user identification as well. And Orchestream Holdings PLC (Nasdaq: OCHS; London: OCH) offers software specifically geared to helping carriers configure and manage IP VPNs (virtual private networks) according to specific policies (see Orchestream Preps VPN Push).
But Dorado's competitors say these capabilities aren't ready for prime time. Most service providers aren't prepared to divvy up bandwidth on a per-user basis, they say. What's more, per-user provisioning raises the spectre of just how far carriers are willing to go in allowing end users to control their own bandwidth. Many aren't ready, for instance, to allow customers to change their bandwidth setups on the Web.
Dorado says it's readying a Web portal product to go with its provisioning tools for release by the end of July 2001.
"Carriers haven't decided what checks and balances need to be put into the process of offering this kind of control," says the VP of marketing for a provisioning vendor that competes with Dorado. "It's not a question of the technology being there -- it is. They don't have the business models in place to support this level of granularity."
Is this sour grapes? It's impossible to tell from vendor information alone, given the subtleties of the multivendor provisioning market (see Provisioning Pipe Dreams). Clearly, though, Dorado's claims are hitting a nerve.
For its part, Dorado says it's different from the competition in offering more kinds of provisioning applications across a broader range of services and devices than its rivals. Again, it's a claim that's tough to validate. So far, though, Dorado's roster of devices seems as impressive as anyone's: Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Corona Networks Inc., Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY), Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Lantern Communications Inc., Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Riverstone Networks (Nasdaq: RSTN), and World Wide Packets Inc.
Dorado says it's launched a campaign to support Sonet/SDH and DWDM gear and will have finished software within a couple of months. Also, the vendor says it's "just about to release" software that supports MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) services.
Dorado is challenged to make all these pieces of its infrastructure come together in a timely fashion. It also has yet to establish a partnership with a billing vendor capable of supporting broadband IP networks -- although, again, Dorado says this is in the works.
If Dorado can make it all work quickly enough, it could up the ante for next-generation services. In the meantime, it will give its competitors and prospective customers something to think about.
- Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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