Nortel, Laurel Extend B-RAS Lines

Nortel doubles the density of its Shasta box while Laurel brings out a quarter-size version of its ST200

June 8, 2004

4 Min Read
Nortel, Laurel  Extend B-RAS Lines

Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) and Laurel Networks Inc. both are releasing new broadband remote access server (B-RAS) boxes this week, advancing product lines that have gone a long time without any upgrades.

Nortel today announced a larger version of its Shasta 5000 Broadband Service Node, a release intended to push the platform into more of a mainstream B-RAS standing. Although the new box really is the latest Shasta, it's getting a new name: the Services Edge Router (SER) 5500 (see Nortel Upgrades Shasta Router).

Shasta is better known as an IP-security platform, competing with CoSine Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: COSN), rather than a serious B-RAS player, says Graham Beniston, an analyst with Heavy Reading, Light Reading's paid research service. "They've beefed up some of the processing [to enhance security features] but as a B-RAS, it needed some more session density," Beniston says.

To take care of that, the SER 5500 doubles Shasta's density, to 64,000 subscribers, while claiming the ability to run stateful firewalls for each session. The release also includes a major revision of Shasta's software.

Nortel sees services such as hosted VPNs starting to merge with B-RASs, and the SER 5500 is being positioned to tackle both areas, says Terry Boland, Nortel director of marketing. In the long run, Nortel expects B-RASs to get absorbed into edge routers. That makes the SER 5500 a stopgap, marking time until the day when the B-RAS becomes part of an edge-router platform such as the recently announced Neptune, formally named the MPE 9000 (see Neptune Arrives).

The SER 5500 is needed for now because the addition of higher-layer services into the MPE 9000 line is "further out in the rollout -- quite a bit further," Boland says. "The MPE [for now] is going to focus on Layer 2 and Layer 3 convergence and not touch on the higher-layer services." Moreover, Nortel officials have stated they intend to continue the Passport and Shasta product lines, even though both overlap with the MPE 9000.

On the customer front, Nortel has announced that Savvis Communications Corp. (Nasdaq: SVVS) is running trials with the SER 5500. General availability for the platform is slated for July.

Laurel, meanwhile, released the ST50 yesterday, its first new system since the ST200 two years ago (see Laurel Launches New BRAS and Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack). Though it's an edge router, the ST50 will likely see action as a B-RAS at first, says Steve Vogelsang, Laurel's vice president of marketing.

The ST50 is a shrunken version of the ST200, supporting 32,000 sessions versus 128,000. It was created because the ST200 is overkill for some situations. "In some portions of the network you need the features, but you don't need the number of subscribers," Vogelsang says.

The ST50 is half the physical size of the ST200, making it one-fourth of a rack, but its switching capacity is much lower -- 5 Gbit/s compared with 160 Gbit/s for the ST200. The box targets lower port speeds, with interfaces for only OC3 (155 Mbit/s) and Gigabit Ethernet. The ST200 carries those interfaces, too, but also goes up to OC192 (10 Gbit/s).

Equipment vendors commonly trot out half-sized versions of their flagship boxes (see Sources: Cisco Building 'Son of HFR'). But for Laurel, this could turn out to be a crucial step. That the company has been passed up by potential acquirers could be an indication that the ST200 wasn't what the market was looking for, Beniston says. "Laurel and some of the other B-RAS contenders have been around for a while now. The market is maturing, and you have to wonder if any of these guys are going to make it."

Laurel seemed ripe for acquisition by a larger player, but instead the deals went to others such as Vivace Networks, acquired by Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA), and TiMetra, acquired by Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA). Laurel does have a large OEM partner in Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), which can sell a combination of Laurel and WaveSmith boxes at the edge. The lack of acquisition prospects was enough to knock Laurel off Light Reading's Top Ten Private Companies.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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