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September 23, 2002
In today's competitive landscape, vendors are slugging it out for every available carrier dollar. So it's not surprising to see an increase in force behind claims about product features and customer wins.
Marconi plc (Nasdaq/London: MONI) is the latest example. The vendor says its recently unveiled BXR-48000 (see Marconi Gets a Boost) is the first and only multiservice switch to run Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) traffic over a fully concatenated OC192c Sonet spigot.
Clarification: Sonet OC192c is different from OC192 in a key respect. While both support 10-Gbit/s data rates, OC192c does so via a single channel, whereas plain old OC192 multiplexes four 2.5-Gbit/s channels together. One channel is easier to manage and scale than four glommed together, comprende?
Further clarification: What Marconi's claiming is not that it's the first to have OC192c networking channels. Router vendors like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) already offer those. What's new is the ability of a switch to do so -- specifically a switch that's geared to supporting legacy and Internet Protocol (IP) traffic in a single box (for more on such products, see Multiservice Switches).
Marconi's backing up its claim with testimony from its first BXR-48000 customer, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), which also helped Marconi develop the product.
"We have access to a lot of products, and I haven't seen any that can do ATM over OC192c," says Hank Dardy, chief scientist at NRL. He says, thanks to a blade delivered by Marconi this week, his agency is running live large database traffic across six government sites. "I think it's a first at this level."
Marconi's BXR-48000s are linked in Dardy's network to core switches from Firstwave Secure Intelligent Optical Networks Inc. (see Firstwave Follows the Feds).
Is this really unique? So far, it appears to be. "If they're running ATM over OC192c, that's different," says David Passmore of Burton Group.
Is this really important? So far, it's not clear that having OC192c is as important in multiservice switches as it is in routers, where demand already has pushed supply. And other vendors are taking their time. A source at Équipe Communications Corp. says his equipment has OC192 capabilities but probably won't have OC192c until chips become available, about one year from now.
Interestingly, Marconi says it designed and made many of the chips for the new OC192c blade in-house.
Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) says its Passport 20000 won't offer OC192c until the first quarter of 2003. Cisco claims its MGX 8950 multiservice switch supports OC192c (see Cisco Makes Multiservice Move ). But while Cisco says "quite a few" customers are trialing that platform, none, as of press time, were willing to talk about it.
"Having OC192c in a multiservice switch may not be essential today," says Passmore, "but as access speeds pick up, it will become very important to carriers."
Of course, Marconi hasn't made its OC192c blade generally available, so it's tough to verify its claims beyond the testimony of NRL. What's more, Marconi's blade needs to be considered in light of its other capabilities and in a range of configurations.
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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