Marconi Scales Down Its Edge

The Multiservice Edge Club gets a new member as Marconi launches low-cost box for the enterprise market

June 28, 2004

3 Min Read
Marconi Scales Down Its Edge

Marconi has joined the multiservice edge aggregation party with the launch of a customer premises box that offers a mix of SDH and Ethernet ports (see Marconi Launches New Edge Box).

It's the latest in a string of products that combine multiple technologies in a single, unobtrusive unit. And instead of joining Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) in announcing its product in time for last week's Supercomm show (see Lucent Joins the Edge Crowd), Marconi held back its launch for this week's more European-centric WDM and Metro Optical Networking Conference in Cannes, France. Which makes sense: Marconi's customer base is strongest in the SDH markets of Europe and Asia/Pacific, rather than the Sonet world of North America.

So what has the British vendor come up with? Basically, it's a compact, pizza-box unit (4.5cm x 45cm x 21cm) with two STM1/STM4 ports for SDH, four E1 ports for 2-Mbit/s Ethernet connections, and four Fast Ethernet (10/100-Mbit/s) interfaces. Matthew Smith, the vendor's SDH product line manager, says the box incorporates the next-generation SDH features carriers are demanding for transporting Ethernet traffic, specifically GFP (Generic Framing Procedure), LCAS (Link Capacity Adjustment Scheme), and virtual concatenation.

The idea is that Marconi sells the box to operators, which then install the product at their enterprise customers' buildings as they start using Ethernet services, which are growing in popularity (see Europeans Go Crazy for Ethernet Services). Smith says Marconi already has some orders for the OMS840.

"We already have edge equipment that includes Ethernet, but this delivers a mix of Ethernet and TDM interfaces in a smaller, cheaper footprint," says Smith (see Gearmakers Chase Ethernet in Europe and MRV, Marconi Team on EoSDH). "It's aimed at PTTs and alternative operators, which are all seeing high demand for Ethernet services now from their enterprise customers. The carriers wanted a less-expensive device to sell into their business users," he adds.

That's exactly the message Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is hearing, too (see Cisco Renews Its SDH Chase). Marconi, though, is not prepared to provide any pricing information for the OMS840, so it's unclear just how cheap this product is.

Heavy Reading Chief Technologist Geoff Bennett says it's about time Marconi launched such a product, especially as it was one of the first vendors to offer Ethernet-over-SDH capabilities.

"Marconi has to have this sort of product if it's going to retain its customer base and help those carriers offer next-generation services. Marconi's definitely fallen behind in the past few years in terms of developing products that offer packet multiplexing into an SDH timeslot," says Bennett. (Disclosure: Bennett is a former Marconi employee.)

So what type of operator is Marconi pitching to? Smith says its targets are incumbents and CLECs, though the alternative operators are the ones most aggressively pushing the Ethernet message to Europe's businesses. He cites Fibernet Group plc (London: FIB), which uses gear from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., as an example, though the U.K.-based CLEC is not alone (see Huawei Springs Surprises and Exponential-e: What Yipes Wasn't).

The incumbent carriers are also jumping on the Ethernet bandwagon, adds the Marconi man, though they're much more interested in the ability to support their legacy services, such as leased lines, as well as the new Ethernet services (see BT Offers Ethernet Over ATM).

— Ray Le Maistre, International Editor, Boardwatch

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